James Harden recorded his fifth 40-plus point scoring effort during the Houston Rockets' seven-game winning streak, posting 49 in a 125-105 victory over the host Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.
Hamstrung by a roster depleted by injuries, Harden took a career-high 41 shot attempts. He finished 8 of 22 on 3-pointers and added five rebounds and six assists over 39 minutes.
A trio of guards provided Harden support offensively. Ben McLemore followed his 21-point performance Friday against Indiana with 20 points, including a pair of free throws with 1:29 left in the third quarter that gave the Rockets their first double-digit lead at 89-79.
Austin Rivers and Chris Clemons scored 19 points apiece for the Rockets, who also received a career-best 16 rebounds from center Isaiah Hartenstein. Houston shot 19 of 49 on 3-pointers.
The Timberwolves led by as many as 11 points in the first half but struggled to contain Harden. They also missed the production of their second-leading scorer, forward Andrew Wiggins, who missed his second consecutive game (personal reasons).
Karl-Anthony Towns paired 27 points with 15 rebounds to pace the Timberwolves, while Jake Layman scored 21 on 9-of-14 shooting. Robert Covington chipped in 17 points, while rookie Jarrett Culver added 13 points, all in the first half.
With the Rockets missing their second- (Russell Westbrook), third- (Clint Capela), fourth- (Danuel House Jr.) and fifth-leading scorers (Eric Gordon), Harden asserted himself offensively from the opening tip, hoisting 17 first-quarter shots to keep Houston afloat. Harden started the game 1 for 6 from the floor but went 6 of 11 down the stretch and tallied 18 points in the period, as the Rockets shot 6 of 12 from behind the arc and eked out a 31-30 advantage.
Clemons teamed with Harden to score all 13 points in a 13-3 Houston run that erased most of the Timberwolves' 21-10 lead. Clemons, an undrafted rookie out of Campbell, matched his career high of 16 points by the intermission.
With Harden producing 30 points by the break, that duo was able to offset Towns' 18 points and the combined 24 points from Culver and Layman to lead 64-62.
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