HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets avoided what would have been their most inexplicable loss of the season, mustering a spirited second-half comeback and dashing past the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves 108-100 Friday night at Toyota Center.
Rockets guards James Harden and Jeremy Lin combined for 61 points and 16 assists to help erase a 20-point, third-quarter deficit.
Houston (36-30) received fourth-quarter boosts from Greg Smith and Chandler Parsons, whose 3-pointer with 63 seconds left supplied the Rockets their first double-digit advantage. Harden had 37 points, Lin scored 24, Parsons finished with 14, and Smith had 12.
Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea scored 19 points apiece to lead six Timberwolves in double figures. Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio posted 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the injury-riddled Timberwolves (22-41), who had only with nine available players.
The Rockets initiated their comeback immediately after the Timberwolves grabbed their biggest lead of the night at 59-39 following a Greg Stiemsma baseline jumper just 19 seconds into the third quarter. Keyed by a flurry of 3-pointers, the Rockets cut the deficit to 65-58 on an Omer Asik layup before stalling a bit as Minnesota rebuilt its lead to 10.
The ebb and flow continued through the remainder of the third, with Harden and Lin drilling 3-pointers, only for the Timberwolves to respond with timely baskets from Mickael Gelabale, Rubio, Barea and Williams. The Rockets' rally wasn't so much a product of improved defense, but rather a frenetic offensive pace set by Harden and Lin, who combined for 27 third-quarter points. The Rockets shot 10-for-17 in the third quarter.
Given the Timberwolves' roster, their sizable advantage was shocking. Their starting frontline, reserves under normal circumstances, combined to shoot 10-for-15 in the first half. Not only did Stiemsma, Gelabale and Williams total 22 points, but they also grabbed nine rebounds and doled out six assists. What remained of the Timberwolves' bench wasn't too shabby, with Barea leading a unit that produced 24 first-half points.
Minnesota not only shot 55 percent prior to intermission, it also limited the Rockets to just two fast-break points. Houston failed to get its transition offense on track, but that didn't hinder the Rockets' ability to rally late.
NOTES: The Wolves were without forward Kevin Love (hand), forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and center Nikola Pekovic (abdominal). ... With the Miami Heat having joined the Milwaukee Bucks (20 games, 1970-71), Los Angeles Lakers (33 games, 1971-72) and Rockets (22 games, 2007-08) as the only franchises to manage 20-plus-game winning streaks, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman shared perspective from leading Houston on its run. The Rockets' average margin of victory during their streak was 12.3 points, including nine consecutive double-digit wins starting Feb. 21, 2008, against, coincidentally enough, the Heat. "It kind of came out of nowhere. Our guys weren't in the picture," Adelman said. "It just shows you our guys got on a roll and they had a lot of confidence and they played it night after night after night. I look back on it and it was a great, memorable experience for everybody on that team, especially for me." ... Rockets guard James Harden has labored through a sore right foot for more than a week. While he has yet to miss any games, the impact of his discomfort is noticeable. "He can still facilitate from (the perimeter), it's just not as dynamic," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "He's at his best when he's breaking down defenses, putting a lot of pressure on the defense, getting fouls and attacking the rim and playing basketball in that downhill style that he plays."