MINNEAPOLIS (AP) —James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets’ 26th win in 28 games.
The West’s top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.
Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.
The Wolves got a burst of energy after a fourth-quarter scuffle between Gorgui Dieng, Paul and Gerald Green. Green was ejected for coming to Paul’s defense after a frustrated Dieng pushed him down after a foul. With the pumped-up crowd chanting “Gor-Gui!,” Derek Rose had back-to-back layups to pull the Wolves to 109-102. But Paul hit a jumper with Crawford in his face, and Harden easily drove past Dieng for a layup to give the Rockets some breathing room.
Minnesota’s 19-6 run made it 115-110 with 3:58 to play before Trevor Ariza hit a 3, and the Rockets were able to answer every Wolves bucket to hold off the rally.
The game was seemingly over by halftime; Houston shot 63 percent, hit 11 3-pointers and led by as many as 24 in the first half while turning the ball over only three times. Harden had 10 assists in the first half, when the Wolves were as close as three before Houston reeled off a 12-0 run and didn’t allow Minnesota to recover.
Report: Klay Thompson will miss games, maybe a couple weeks, with fractured thumb
The injury happened Sunday in the Warriors loss to Minnesota. Late in the first half, Thompson reached trying to strip the ball from a driving Jeff Teague and instantly grabs his thumb in pain. He played through it in that game. You can see how it went down in the grainy video here.
Here is video of the Klay Thompson thumb injury from Sunday. Came late in the first half. Played through it. Warriors fear absence could be longer than initially expected, per @ThompsonScribe. pic.twitter.com/TYPNcBy1TT
Golden State Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson is expected to return before the end of the month from a fractured right thumb, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Thompson is averaging 19.7 points per game on 44.3 percent shooting from three, but may be more critical on the defensive end where he takes on the best guard of the other team nightly and is a borderline All-Defensive Team player.
Steve Kerr doesn’t care about chasing down Houston for the No. 1 seed, all he cares about is getting his players healthy and rested before the playoffs start. Golden State will take its time bringing guys back at this point in the season, even at the price of losing games. Golden State is concerned about the games in late May and June, not one in the middle of March.
Three Things to Know: Stephen Curry rolls ankle and sits, Warriors roll on to win anyway
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Stephen Curry rolls ankle, will miss a couple of games, Warriors roll on to beat Spurs anyway. Stephen Curry’s ankles have been an issue this season — he sprained one back on Dec. 4 and missed much of that month getting healthy. Now that concern is back — though not as severe.
Curry rolled his ankle after landing and taking a step on a contested layup less than three minutes into Thursday night’s game against the Warriors.
This is not as severe as the December injury, but he’s going to miss time. Curry did not get on the plane postgame with the Warriors to fly up to Portland for Friday night’s contest, nor will he join the team in Minnesota for a weekend game against the Timberwolves. With the playoffs looming, the Warriors are going to be cautious bringing him back, that said, he’s not expected to miss an extended period of time.
Back in December when he was out, the Warriors tightened up their defense, Kevin Durant took over on offense, and Golden State won seven in a row.
That model played out again Thursday. Durant scored 15 of his 37 points in the final 6:30 of the fourth quarter — including 14 straight.
However, the game really changed when coach Steve Kerr assigned Draymond Green to cover LaMarcus Aldridge — he had 28 points through the first 38 minutes of the game, but his only points after the defensive switch were two free throws with 3.1 seconds play. The Warriors got the win 110-107 — their seventh in a row.
Golden State remains just half-a-game back of the Rockets for the best record in the NBA heading into a tough one Friday vs. the Trail Blazers (winners of eight in a row, and sitting at home rested for this one).
The Spurs have now lost 9-of-12 and while technically the five seed in the West they are tied with the Thunder and Timberwolves in that spot, just two games ahead of falling out of the playoffs entirely. The Spurs’ next two games are at Oklahoma City and at Houston, and they have 10-of-12 against teams currently in the playoffs coming up. It’s strange to say this, but the Spurs are in a battle for their playoff lives.
2) Boston’s Jaylen Brown okay after nasty fall. You can tell how scary this was by how quiet the Target Center in Minnesota instantly got after Jaylen Brown’s fall from the rim following a third-quarter dunk.
Brown did not return to the game after that but Tweeted this after.
Appreciate everybody I'm ok .. Got a headache tho 🤕 good team win !!
He was on the team plane back to Boston, and the Celtics said he would be monitored for concussion symptoms — the headache (and that dazed look after he landed) suggests he may have one. Which is not good, he will miss time with it, but considering how he landed on his head/neck things could have been much worse.
3) Kyrie Irving returns, leads Celtics past Timberwolves without Brown in fourth. Brown’s nasty fall put a cloud over the fourth quarter for Boston, but by that point the Celtics had a relatively comfortable lead that they never surrendered on their way to a 117-109 victory.
This was not a game with much defense from either side, but Boston had the better offense on the night with the return of Kyrie Irving from injury to lead the Celtics with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, plus eight assists and seven rebounds.
Boston’s Al Horford had 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and their most important player on the night may well have been Marcus Morris with his 17 points off the bench.
Minnesota, searching for consistency without Jimmy Butler and fighting to make sure they stay in the playoffs (the Wolves are just two games ahead of the 9/10 seed Nuggets and Jazz), got a big night from Nemanja Bjelica with 30 points on 16 shots, plus 12 rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds — but his 12 shots were tied for fourth on the team with Jeff Teague, this is one of the best offensive big men in the game and he’s got to get more touches and shots. Andrew Wiggins had played well since Butler’s injury, until Thursday — with Terry Rozier hounding him for stretches, Wiggins shot 6-of-21 overall including 1-of-8 from deep. He was missing from all over the court, and on open shots at that — Wiggins was 3-of-13 on uncontested looks (via NBA.com).
Minnesota is in a fight to stay in the playoffs the rest of the way, and with Butler out the team needs to defend better and play to its strengths more.
The Timberwolves were reportedly hot on Derrick Rose’s tail after the trade deadline, when the Cavaliers traded and Jazz waived him. But there was enough delay that questions emerged whether Rose was finished in the NBA entirely.
Alas, Minnesota went through with it.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Free agent guard Derrick Rose is signing with Minnesota for the rest of the season, league sources tell ESPN.
This signing is clearly happening because Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau previously coached Rose in Chicago.
The opportunity cost of using a roster spot on Rose is bad enough. Minnesota needs help on the wing. But the biggest problem comes if Thibodeau actually plays Rose over Jones.
There’s always a chance Thibodeau taps into Rose’s potential. Gibson is having a resurgent year, after all. But Rose looks finished in ways Gibson never did, and Teague and Jones already provide a formidable 1-2 at at point guard.
The Timberwolves (38-28) have just a 2.5-game buffer over the Nuggets and Jazz for playoff position. Minnesota is trying to end a 13-season postseason drought. The stakes are high there.
The best-case scenario of this signing might be it ending up harmless. The downside is Rose getting a rotation spot and costing the Timberwolves wins that would have gotten them into the playoffs.
Jeff Teague ejected for hip check on Ricky Rubio, Jimmy Butler likes it
Minnesota was already behind and had a real problem: Karl-Anthony Towns had been ejected in the first half for a couple of technicals (the second one for arguing a non-call), and that left nobody who could slow Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who was dominating inside and finished with 26 points and 16 boards.
The Timberwolves were behind and shorthanded, point guard Jeff Teague was frustrated, so he hip-checked Ricky Rubio coming down the court.
Teague deserved to be ejected for that one, there wasn’t even a play on the ball. You know coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t like it (this game mattered in the standings), but Jimmy Butler — injured and watching at home — did.
haven’t used Twitter in years. But yeah Jeff that’s what I like to see. Rubio getting up quick for no reason.
It was a wild night. After the game, Thibodeau chose his words carefully to avoid a fine but said he was “disappointed” in the referees.
Oh, by the way, Utah won the game 116-108. The loss dropped Minnesota into a four-way tie with Portland, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City for seeds three through six in the West (and Minnesota trails all of them in the loss column). Without Butler until around the end of the season (by Butler’s estimates) the Timberwolves can’t afford to have its best player and point guard getting tossed in key games. They need wins or they could slide back to the seven or eight seed and have to face Houston or Golden State in the first round.
Utah still wants into the dance, they remain two games back of Denver and the eight seed (Denver won Friday night, too, as did the Clippers). The Jazz have the easiest remaining schedule of any of these teams.