ROCKETS 104, TIMBERWOLVES 101
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 44 points and powered a big fourth-quarter run that allowed the Houston Rockets to outlast the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-101 on Sunday night in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.
Minnesota scored four consecutive points to get within 3 with about 30 seconds left. Chris Paul added two free throws after that for Houston, but a tip-in by Karl-Anthony Towns got Minnesota back within 3. After a bad pass by Paul gave the Timberwolves a chance to tie it with 1.5 seconds left, Jimmy Butler's shot was short.
The Timberwolves had a one-point lead with about seven minutes left when Houston used a 9-0 run, with the last seven points from Harden, to make it 94-86 with about four minutes to go. Harden, who also had a steal in that span, capped the run with a three-pointer that prompted Minnesota Coach Tom Thibodeau to call a timeout.
Jeff Teague ended Minnesota's scoring drought with two free throws after the timeout and added a three-point play after a basket by Harden. Harden made another shot to give him 11 consecutive points for Houston before another basket by Teague.
Harden got Clint Capela in on the scoring after that, finding him for an alley-oop that pushed the lead to 101-93 with less than three minutes left.
The top-seeded Rockets had their hands full with the No. 8 Timberwolves on a night where Houston made just 10 of 37 three-pointers. Harden made 7 of 12 three-pointers, but Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon and Paul combined to make just 3 of their 22 tries.
Houston kept All-Star big man Towns in check, limiting him to just eight points after he'd averaged 21.3 in leading the Wolves to their first playoff appearance since 2004. Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points to lead Minnesota.
The Wolves scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 56-54 lead. Tucker made a three for the Rockets after that, but Minnesota used a 6-1 spurt, with threes from Wiggins and Teague, to go back on top 62-58.
The Rockets had managed just six points in the quarter when Gerald Green made a basket to cut the lead to 1 with about five minutes left in the third. Derrick Rose added a bucket seconds later, but Houston scored six consecutive points after that to put Houston up 68-65. Harden got things going when he made a three-pointer while being fouled by Rose and also made the free throw.
Minnesota led by a basket after a jump shot by Towns with about two minutes left in the quarter. Harden took over after that, scoring the last six points of the quarter to leave Houston up 76-72 entering the fourth.
Harden hit a three-pointer before making a driving layup he was fouled on by Gorgui Dieng. Harden flexed each bicep twice while peering down at the muscles after the shot before making the free throw.
The Rockets swept the regular-season series 4-0, winning by an average of 15.8 points a game and it looked like this one might be another blowout early as the Rockets raced out to a 17-6 lead behind 10 early points from Capela. But the Timberwolves got going after that and had tied it up by late in the first quarter.
The Rockets led 54-47 at halftime.
THUNDER 116, JAZZ 108
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Paul George scored 36 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series.
George set an Oklahoma City playoff record with eight three-pointers, blowing past the previous record of five. He made eight of 11 shots from long range, and 13 of 20 shots overall. It was his first playoff game with the Thunder since being acquired in a trade with the Indiana Pacers in the offseason.
Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists and Carmelo Anthony added 15 points for the Thunder, who will host Game 2 on Wednesday.
Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but he left in the second half with left foot soreness. He returned in the fourth quarter but was noticeably hobbling.
Rudy Gobert scored 14 points, and Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder each added 13 for the Jazz.
The Thunder recovered from a 16-4 deficit to tie it at 25 at the end of the first quarter. Oklahoma City led 54-48 at halftime behind 20 points from George and 14 from Westbrook.
George hit his seventh three-pointer to push Oklahoma City's lead to 79-66. George hit a deep two-pointer to close the quarter and give the Thunder an 81-72 lead.
Alex Abrines hit two three-pointers early in the fourth quarter to give Oklahoma City a 92-80 lead and force Utah to call timeout. The Thunder held off a surge in the final minute.
Sports on 04/16/2018
Print Headline: Harden scores 44 points as Rockets roll