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Timberwolves lose to Houston Rockets 129-106

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Timberwolves lose to Houston Rockets 129-106
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HOUSTON -- Guard James Harden rebounded from a sluggish first quarter with an eruptive second quarter, pacing the Houston Rockets to a 20-point turnaround and a 129-106 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night at the Toyota Center.

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Harden finished with 28 points and eight assists as the Rockets (46-22) extended their home winning streak to 10 games. He committed four turnovers in the first quarter while missing two of his three shots from the field. Once the second quarter commenced, Harden performed up to All-Star capabilities.

With the Timberwolves (34-33) leading 41-31, Harden scored 10 points during a 17-0 Houston run. He added two free throws that pushed the lead to 59-50 with 2:16 remaining in the half before burying a 3-pointer for a 64-54 lead at the break. Harden scored 17 points in the second quarter.

The Rockets pushed their lead to 21 points in the third quarter in applying the knockout blow. They did so despite exceptional performances from Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (29 points) and center Gorgui Dieng, who posted his third consecutive double-double and career highs in points (22) and rebounds (21) subbing for injured Nikola Pekovic (right ankle).

Rockets forward Chandler Parsons added 19 points and nine rebounds, and guard Patrick Beverley scored 11 of his 14 points in the first quarter. Forward Donatas Motiejunas (20 points, six rebounds) and guard Jeremy Lin (11 points, 10 assists) sparked the Houston bench.

Minnesota took advantage of seven first-quarter Rockets turnovers to establish a 33-27 lead entering the second. The Timberwolves outworked Houston on the glass and for loose balls, prompting Rockets coach Kevin McHale to call a timeout out of frustration after Minnesota parlayed a 14-4 run into that 41-31 lead. That is when Harden emerged.

After shooting a season-best 58.2 percent from the field in their win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night, the Rockets shot 57.6 percent against Minnesota. Houston committed just eight turnovers after its sloppy first quarter.

NOTES: In addition to a league-leading 53 scoring-rebounding double-doubles, Timberwolves F Kevin Love has developed into a solid passer. His 4.2 assists per game are more than double his previous career average, and Love has cultivated a reputation as an exceptional outlet passer. "When you grew up, it was Wes Unseld, Bill Walton -- those guys were elite at it," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "He's not afraid to throw it. It's definitely a home run play and he connects on a lot of them." ... Rockets C Dwight Howard missed his second consecutive game after having a portion of a cyst removed from his left ankle, which was also drained on Tuesday. ... As part of his third career triple-double at Dallas on Wednesday night, Timberwolves G Ricky Rubio scored 20-plus points for just the third time this season. "He made a variety of shots going to the basket," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "He's got to learn how to get shots off when he goes into that area because when the big guys are there he's got to learn how to get over them."

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