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Old 04-11-2016, 10:10 PM   #1
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Harden, Howard keep Rockets alive with win over Wolves

James Harden scored 34 points and Dwight Howard had 19 points and eight rebounds to keep the Houston Rockets' playoff hopes alive with a 129-105 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

Harden made 12 of 21 shots in three quarters, Trevor Ariza scored 21 points and the Rockets made 15 of 30 3-pointers. Houston (40-41) entered the game in ninth place in the Western Conference and one game behind Utah for the final spot.

Shabazz Muhammad scored 23 points and Zach LaVine scored 21 for the Timberwolves, who were looking for their first four-game winning streak since 2012. Karl-Anthony Towns was held to 12 points and five rebounds and Minnesota was just 5 for 21 from 3-point range.

A drama-filled season has come down to the final two games for the Rockets. They entered the game Monday night in danger of being eliminated from the playoff race with a loss to the Timberwolves and a win by the Jazz against Dallas.

It was a startling position to be in for a team that advanced to the Western Conference finals last season, but Harden and Howard made sure the Rockets would head to their season finale against Sacramento on Wednesday with something to play for.

For once in this uninspiring season, the Rockets played with a sense of urgency. Howard and Harden set the tone from the opening tip, hammering the Wolves in the paint and racking up 38 points in the first quarter.

The Wolves came into the game on a high after winning three straight on the road, including stunning victories at Golden State and Portland.

Towns was selected the Western Conference player of the week for his performance in those games, including a game-winning shot to beat the Blazers on Saturday night.

But the Wolves have been a much better team on the road (15-26) than they have been at home (13-27) all season, and that trend continued in a woeful effort against the Rockets. Minnesota shot 25 percent in the first quarter and gave up layup after layup to make the Rockets feel very comfortable.

Howard dominated Towns in the post, outmuscling the No. 1 overall draft pick and getting to the rim for dunks and putbacks with ease. It was one of the very few poor games Towns has played all season. He started 1 for 7 and played tentative for most of the night.

Clint Capela had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Patrick Beverley added 11 points, five rebounds and four assists for Houston, which shot 55.8 percent.


Rockets: This was the two-year anniversary of Corey Brewer's 51-point game at Target Center. Brewer had that game for the Timberwolves, against the Rockets. ... Brewer played with a sleeve on his bothersome right elbow. ... F Terrence Jones played in garbage time, his first minutes since Feb. 29.

Timberwolves: Nemanja Bjelica had 11 points and 14 rebounds. Towns passed Christian Laettner for the franchise's rookie scoring record with 1,475 points. ... Team president Chris Wright celebrated 25 years with the organization on Monday.


Rockets: Host Sacramento on Wednesday.
Timberwolves: Host New Orleans on Wednesday.

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