There was a time when an 0-for-7 shooting start for Houston's James Harden in a playoff game would have caused alarm, a time when you could say the same about a 2-for-18 night in the playoffs.
You couldn't say it Monday at Target Center, where Harden scored 22 points all by himself in a third quarter when his team outscored the Wolves 50-20 and delivered a knockdown punch from which the Wolves will be challenged to get back up.
Just this time last season, Harden went 2-for-11 from the field, scored 10 points and had six turnovers and six fouls in a blowout second-round Game 6 elimination loss to San Antonio.
Three nights after he scored 44 points in a first-round opener, Harden went 2-for-18 in last Wednesday's Game 2 victory over the Wolves, but both he and coach Mike D'Antoni said his shooting struggles wouldn't last.
"I think these last few years are when I've been the most comfortable," Harden said before the Rockets practiced in Houston on Tuesday. "I always worked hard. I always put the time in. But just the trust, having the guys around me, the coaching staff to encourage me to go out there and not worry about anything but being me. This is probably the most confidence I've had."
He scored at will in Monday's third quarter, on step-back threes and fearless drives to the rim on his way to a 36-point night. The Rockets' 50-point quarter was just one point fewer than the NBA playoff record for most points in a quarter, 51 scored by the 1962 Los Angeles Lakers against Detroit.
"It's pretty cool, put up 50 points in a quarter," Harden said. "That's only been done once. That just shows how fast you can get it rolling."
Neither Harden himself nor teammate Ryan Anderson kept track of just how many points Harden scored in a hurry in that third quarter.
"I didn't even know he scored 22 points in that quarter," Anderson said. "It just seemed so effortless. There has been so many times playing on this team where for some reason it just feels so natural, that it's not some crazy anomaly. When you look back at it and when you talk about it, it's pretty amazing. That's just how special he is and how special this team is."
Teague's 'all right'
The Wolves listed backup point guard Tyus Jones on their Tuesday injury list as questionable after he didn't play in Game 4 because of a sore right knee.
They did not list starter Jeff Teague, who left the game in Monday's first quarter after he dislocated his pinkie finger. He returned and played 28 minutes anyway but went 1-for-7 from the field and scored two points after a 23-point night in Game 3.
"I'm all right," Teague said after the game. "Popped it right back in, it was fine. It hurt, but it's part of it."
Three's no charm
His team leading the series 3-1 now, Rockets veteran forward Trevor Ariza issued this reminder Tuesday:
"We haven't done anything yet," he said. "Our goal is not to win three games. Every series you have to win four games. Until we get a fourth win, nothing else matters."
• Harden tossed his sneakers after Game 4 to a fan who held a sign that said he traveled 7,138 miles from Taiwan to Target Center to watch Harden and the Rockets play. "I can appreciate things like that," Harden said. "He came all the way from Taiwan to watch me play in Minnesota. It's a pretty cool feeling for me."
• The Rockets flew home to Houston after Monday's game and practiced at Toyota Center Tuesday afternoon. The Wolves flew to Houston Tuesday afternoon and studied film but did not practice.