James Harden tied legendary center Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest streak of 30-point games in NBA history Wednesday night. However, his latest big scoring output was overshadowed by a dispiriting road loss and one ferocious block at the hands of a rookie.
Harden poured in 42 points, his 31st consecutive game with at least 30, but the Houston Rockets were outworked in the second half and lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-111. Minnesota outscored Houston 69-53 after halftime to turn a six-point deficit into a double-digit win.
Harden passed the 30-point mark on a four-point play with 7:19 left in the third quarter. He drew the foul on T’wolves rookie Josh Okogie on one of his patented step-back 3s to put Houston up 74-67.
Okogie then keyed an 18-2 run as the T’wolves regained the lead and didn’t trail the rest of the way. Okogie had a big steal on a strip of Harden. About a minute later, Okogie had a breakaway dunk and a 3-pointer to put the T’wolves ahead 77-74.
On the ensuing possession, Okogie brought the fans to their feet with a huge block of Harden on another attempt at a step-back 3. Harden bobbled the ball at the top of the key but regained possession in time to attempt a 3 before the shot clock expired. However, Okogie met him for the emphatic block that drew some of the biggest cheers of the night from the Minnesota crowd.
Harden tied it at 89-all early in the fourth, but the T’wolves responded with four 3-pointers to go back up by six. Harden got the Rockets within 115-111 with 1:52 left on three straight 3s. Okogie responded again with a dunk and forced Harden into an airball on a 3 attempt. Karl-Anthony Towns added a layup, and the T’wolves could finally breathe.
Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 27 points, and Towns added 25 as seven T’wolves scored in double figures. Okogie finished with 16 as Minnesota shot 54.4 percent from the field.
Harden eclipsed 40 points for the 22nd time this season, but he needed 34 shots to get there. He finished 15-of-34 from the field overall and 8-of-22 from 3-point range. The league’s scoring leader averages 11.6 free-throw attempts per game, but Minnesota limited him to 4-of-4 on foul shots.
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