HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets wish they could get away from their habit of trailing early in games and needing big second-half rallies to pull them out.
As long as they have James Harden, it seems to be a working formula.
Harden scored 37 points, Jeremy Lin had 24 and the Rockets rallied from 20 points down in the third quarter to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-100 on Friday night.
Harden also grabbed seven rebounds and handed out eight assists for the Rockets, who rallied from a double-digit deficit to win for the 11th time this season.
The Rockets picked up their defense to rally this time, holding the Timberwolves to only 17 field goals after the break. Harden had 25 points in the second half as Houston outscored Minnesota 69-43.
“I kind of saw where we were all sluggish, especially in that first half,” Harden said. “You just have to have that confidence to go out there and make plays and score the basketball, drop a couple passes off and work from there.”
Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea scored 19 points apiece for the Timberwolves, who led 59-39 early in the third quarter. Minnesota blew a 14-point lead in another loss to Houston earlier this season.
“Houston got very aggressive and they took over the game,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “Houston obviously played much better in the second half.”
But with a tougher schedule ahead, starting with Sunday’s game against Golden State, the Rockets know they can’t keep relying on second-half outbursts for victories.
“The first half was so frustrating, we can’t afford to play like that,” forward Chandler Parsons said. “We can’t get down like that and fight back against many teams.”
Houston started the game by making some history. The Rockets’ first 3-pointer, hit by Parsons, was No. 705 on the season, tying the franchise record set by the 2006-07 team. Lin broke the mark two minutes later.
The Timberwolves, though, looked more like the sharpshooters on the floor at the start, shooting 59 percent (13 of 22) in the first quarter. Minnesota’s frontline players went 7 for 9 from the field in the quarter and Alexey Shved sank a pull-up 3 off Houston’s eighth turnover in the second for a 38-31 Minnesota lead.
“Normally, they frustrate me,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said of his young team. “Tonight, they made me mad.”
The league’s highest-scoring team coming into the game, Houston mustered only 39 first-half points and trailed by 18. The Rockets had only 15 first-half field goals on eight assists. Minnesota, meanwhile, shot 55 percent from the field (22 of 40) in the half and scored 20 points off Houston’s 15 first-half turnovers.
“We were relying on our offense so much in the first half that we weren’t making shots,” Harden said. “We weren’t playing defense at all. We picked up our intensity and energy a little bit.”
The Rockets trailed 61-46 early in the third quarter when McHale was whistled for a technical foul. Harden and Lin sank 3-pointers on Houston’s next two possessions, and the Rockets started crawling back into it.
Parsons started the fourth quarter with a steal and a breakaway dunk, and Harden drove for another layup to draw Houston within two. Lin tied it at 82-all with a layup following a Minnesota turnover, and Carlos Delfino found Greg Smith cutting down the lane for a dunk to put the Rockets ahead.
Smith got free inside for a dunk and a layup, and Parsons put it away with a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:03 remaining.
The Rockets snapped a three-game losing streak to the Timberwolves at the Toyota Center and sent Minnesota to its 10th loss in 12 games.
Notes: While Miami extended its win streak to 21 games in Milwaukee, Adelman faced the team he led to 22 consecutive victories five years ago. For now, Houston’s run stands as the second-longest in NBA history and it still seems unlikely, even to Adelman. “It kind of came out of nowhere,” Adelman recalled. “Our guys got on a roll and they had a lot of confidence and they played with it night after night.” The Rockets won 11 of the last 13 games in the streak by double digits. “We were dominating games,” Adelman said. “It was a great experience.” … All five Minnesota starters reached double figures. … Houston had its biggest comeback in Toyota Center history.
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