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Rockets start fast, then hold on to beat Timberwolves 129-120

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The Rockets almost blew a big early lead, but held on down the stretch for the win.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets came out guns blazing in the first half, riding their potent offensive attack to a 25-point early lead. But Houston wasn’t nearly as tight in the second half, and the Timberwolves battled back and got as close as 5 points before James Harden and the Rockets slammed the door shut down the stretch for a 129-120 victory over Minnesota for Houston’s fifth straight victory

The Beard put in an MVP-like performance, going for 34 points, 12 assists, and 4 rebounds on 9-18 shooting, and he cashed a three-pointer over Derrick Rose with 58 seconds left in the contest to give the Rockets an insurmountable 9-point lead. Harden distributed early, racking up 10 of his assists in the first half, and he took it upon himself to handle the scoring load late when the Houston offense bogged down.

And though they weren’t as sharp late, that offense was a sight to behold in the first half. The Rockets took a 77-56 lead into the break, and they went into the intermission shooting 64 percent overall from the field and 11-19 from deep with just 3 turnovers.

That shooting dropped to 45 percent in the second half, and they went ice cold from three as well, going just 5-16 after the break, but it wasn’t just the offense that slipped in the second half. The defense lost intensity as well.

The Rockets mostly kept the Wolves in check early, holding Minnesota to just 46 percent from the field in the first half. But the Wolves heated up in the second half, particularly after Gerald Green was ejected for shoving Gorgui Dieng after Dieng pushed down Chris Paul with a cheap shot of his own.

An energized Minnesota team shot 58 percent after the break, but the Rockets had just enough in the tank after playing last night in New Orleans to fend off Minnesota for the 4-0 season sweep of the series. The Wolves also played last night in San Antonio.

In addition to Harden’s big night, the Rockets also got 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists from Paul, 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks from Clint Capela, and 14 points from Ryan Anderson, who shot extremely well off the bench, going 4-5 from beyond the arc.

Other Rockets in double figures were P.J. Tucker, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter, with 12 points, Gerald Green with 12 before his ejection, and 11 from Trevor Ariza.

Minnesota was led by Jeff Teague, who had 23 points and 11 assists, Andrew Wiggins, who put up 21 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 20 points and 18 rebounds. They also received contributions from Jamal Crawford, who poured in 20 off the bench, Nemanja Bjelica, who finished with 15 points, and Derrick Rose, who had 14.

The Rockets now move to 56-14 on the year and are a full three games up on the Golden State Warriors, with the tiebreak also in hand. The Wolves are now clinging to the eighth spot in the ever-changing back half of the west standings.

Houston now takes a night off before returning to the court Tuesday night in Portland.