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HOUSTON — James Harden focused on getting his teammates involved until he got himself going.
Harden had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double this season, leading the Houston Rockets to a 113-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Harden missed his first seven shots but got going late in the first quarter. He said when his shots aren’t falling, it helps him to find his teammates open.
“When I get my teammates confident to shoot their shots and be aggressive and get them in their rhythm, I can get into mine and that makes everything easy,” Harden said.
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Harden had 13 points at halftime and was a rebound away from wrapping up his fourth career triple-double entering the fourth. When he juked Ricky Rubio with a crossover that sent the defender stumbling to the court and stepped back to swish a 3-pointer to end the third, it was clear that it was his night.
Houston led by nine at the start of the final period, but Andrew Wiggins led a charge that cut the lead to one point with less than 4 minutes left.
The Rockets took over after that, using a 14-2 run, with five points from Harden, to make it 111-98 with less than a minute to go.
“We had to get good shots and rebound the basketball and get stops and we did that at the right time,” Harden said of the run that closed it out.
Wiggins scored 30 for the Timberwolves, who lost for the third time in four games.
“They kept getting us down, but we kept on fighting,” coach Flip Saunders said. “But we just didn’t have enough there at the end.”
It was the 25th 30-point game this season for Harden, the league’s leading scorer. He also helped out on defense, finishing with four blocks to tie a career high.
“He was amazing for others and for himself,” Houston’s Terrence Jones said. “He’s just been that leader this whole year that’s been carrying the team.”
Houston scored six straight points to extend its lead to 92-78 early in the fourth quarter. Then Wiggins got going, scoring seven points in a 10-0 run that cut the lead to 92-88.
A 3-pointer by Jason Terry about a minute later pushed Houston’s lead to eight, before a three-point play by Wiggins started a 7-0 run for Minnesota that made it to 97-96 with about 3 1/2 to play.
Adreian Payne, who made his first NBA start Monday, made a 3 for Minnesota before Wiggins got a steal and finished with a layup for the first five points of a 7-1 run by the Wolves in the third quarter that cut the lead to 76-72.
But the Rockets closed out the period with an 8-3 spurt to extend the lead to 84-75. Harden’s 3 over Rubio capped that run.
“We tried to stop him, but … he has confidence and he’s playing so good right now,” Rubio said. “He’s almost unstoppable.”
Harden’s first basket came with about 3½ minutes left in the second quarter. He was fouled on the shot and made the free throw to put Houston up 45-44.
Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett, who was traded from the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday for Thaddeus Young, will be in uniform for the Timberwolves at home on Wednesday night. Garnett spent his first 12 seasons in Minnesota. … F Shabazz Muhammad had season-ending surgery on the middle finger on his left hand on Monday. He was injured when his finger got caught in a teammate’s jersey in Wednesday’s practice.
Rockets: Starting point guard Patrick Beverley (flu-like symptoms) and F Kostas Papanikolaou (sprained right ankle) both missed the game. … Josh Smith had 17 points for Houston.
THAT’S A START: Jones made his first start since returning from a leg injury that kept him out from Nov. 4 to Jan. 28. Jones started 71 games for Houston last season and the first four this year before he was sidelined with nerve inflammation in his left leg. He’s played nine games since his return, but missed two games earlier this month with the flu. He finished with 15 points and a season-high 15 rebounds.
“It took him a while, but I see him getting more lively,” coach Kevin McHale said. “I see him getting his feet underneath him.”