James Harden and Clint Capela recorded double-doubles, and the Houston Rockets used another third-quarter blitz to top the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-104 on Wednesday at Toyota Center to complete a 4-1 victory in a Western Conference first-round playoff series.
Harden scored 15 of his 24 points in the third quarter and added 12 assists on the night. Capela capped a strong series with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
All five Houston starters scored in double figures while Eric Gordon chipped in 19 points off the bench. The top-seeded Rockets will await the winner of the Utah-Oklahoma City series, which the Jazz lead 3-2 heading back to Salt Lake City.
Trevor Ariza added 16 points on 4-of-7 3-point shooting, and P.J. Tucker made 5 of 7 3-point attempts and posted 15 points. Chris Paul missed all eight of his 3-point tries but added 12 points and nine assists. After missing 15 of 23 from beyond the arc in the first half, Houston shot 10 of 21 from long distance in the second half.
Perhaps the most decisive moment occurred with 4:09 to go in the third quarter, when Ariza burying a corner 3-pointer after Capela corralled a pair of offensive rebounds to extend the possession. The Rockets grabbed their first double-digit lead of the game at 78-68 and never looked back.
The Rockets outscored the Timberwolves 30-15 in the third quarter.
Timberwolves All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns finally dominated in the post when the Rockets switched smaller defenders on him, posting 23 points and 14 rebounds. Jamal Crawford (20 points) and Derrick Rose combined to score 32 off the bench, but Andrew Wiggins (14 points) and Jimmy Butler totaled only 22 on 9-for-24 shooting for the Timberwolves.
That Minnesota failed to fully take advantage of Harden and Paul combining to shoot 3 of 16 in the first half proved pivotal. For lengthy stretches prior to the intermission, the Timberwolves got what they wanted defensively, as they shot a robust 54.8 percent in the first half. They outpaced the Rockets in the paint 28-20 and nailed 7 of 11 3-point attempts before the break.
However, the Rockets relied on their role players until Harden and Paul got going. Ariza and Capela scored 13 points apiece in the first half while Gordon added 12 off the bench. Minnesota led by as many as 10 points, but the Rockets cut the deficit to 59-55 by halftime, setting the stage for their starting backcourt to find its rhythm and carry the Rockets into the West semifinals.
--Field Level Media