MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — James Harden had 38 points before fouling out and Nick Johnson scored on a driving layup with 0.8 seconds to go in overtime that helped the Houston Rockets escape with a 114-112 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
Harden made 11 of 17 shots and also had six assists, but he fouled out with 1:20 to play and the Rockets let a 13-point lead with 5 minutes to go slip away. Jason Terry, the veteran who has been so valuable to the Rockets with Dwight Howard out, hit a 3-pointer and then two free throws in overtime to finish with 19 points.
Thaddeus Young had 19 points for the Timberwolves, the last two coming with 15.9 seconds to go in overtime to tie the game at 112.
But Johnson got loose on the final possession and bulled to the rim to hit a tough layup that gave the Rockets their sixth win in seven games.
Shabazz Muhammad scored 20 points for the Timberwolves, who were coming off an embarrassing loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night that snapped the 76ers’ 17-game losing streak to start the season. Minnesota put up a much more inspired effort on Friday night, outscoring Houston 22-9 in the final 5 minutes of regulation, but couldn’t finish it off.
The Wolves were down 96-83 before Zach LaVine converted a three-point play off a dunk, Corey Brewer threw down a dunk in transition and then hit a 3-pointer from the right elbow to cut the deficit to 99-97 with 2:47 to go. Andrew Wiggins’ layup in transition and dunk gave the Wolves a 105-101 lead with 58 seconds to play.
Donatas Motiejunas scored on a hook shot and hit two free throws to tie the game with 15 seconds to play, and Chase Budinger missed a long jumper at the buzzer that would’ve won it for Minnesota.
Both teams have been racked by injuries, with the Wolves missing Ricky Rubio (ankle), Kevin Martin (wrist), Nikola Pekovic (foot), Ronny Turiaf (hip) and Mo Williams (back). LaVine, a 19-year-old old rookie better suited for shooting guard, started at point guard with no real backup. Brewer did most of the ball-handling when LaVine was out.
The Rockets had plenty of injuries of their own, having missed Howard for the last nine games because of a strained right knee, point guard Patrick Beverley with a hamstring strain and power forward Terrence Jones with a left leg injury.
But the Rockets have Harden, and the Wolves don’t.
The Wolves have won just two games since Rubio went down on Nov. 7, while Harden has led the short-handed Rockets to a 15-4 record, a crucial stretch of success in the early portion of the Western Conference gauntlet. While the Thunder have fallen way behind with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook out, the Rockets are right there near the top of the standings thanks to Harden’s brilliance.
Rockets: Trevor Ariza had 17 points and nine rebounds in 44 minutes. … Kostas Papanikolaou had 10 points and four rebounds off the bench. … It was the 16th time in 19 games that the Rockets hit at least 10 3-pointers.
Timberwolves: Coach Flip Saunders said Williams would not make the trip to San Antonio for the game Saturday and would be re-evaluated when the Wolves come back home. … All five Wolves starters scored in double figures, including 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Brewer.
Rockets: Host Phoenix on Saturday.
Timberwolves: At San Antonio on Saturday.
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