Harden scores 44 as Rockets edge Wolves

Little things loom large as Rockets seek to regain focus in time to face Timberwolves

Harden finished with 44 points and eight assists, carrying the Rockets to a 1-0 series lead. Paul turned the ball over with eight seconds left, but Jimmy Butler missed a buzzer-beating three and the Wolves dropped the series opener 104-101. Minnesota got monster minutes from Derrick Rose. The Wolves are 37-22 with Butler this year and 10-13 without him.

The Timberwolves had a one-point lead with about seven minutes left when Houston used a 9-0 run, with the last seven points from Harden, to make it 94-86 with about four minutes to go. Harden made another shot to give him 11 straight points for Houston before another basket by Teague.

Rarely can you call Game 1 of a seven-game series a "must win", but the way things unfolded Sunday night in Houston, the Timberwolves had to win Game 1. Outside of Clint Capela, there isn't anyone in Houston's regular rotation that would be able to slow down Towns, or even Taj Gibson for that matter.

Instead, the Rockets went on a run. Over the next two quarters, they outscored the high-powered Rockets, who led the National Basketball Association in point differential, by two points. Harden flexed each bicep twice while peering down at the muscles after the shot before making the free throw.

While Minnesota possesses more talent than the average 8-seed, beating the Rockets four times in seven games is almost impossible, especially when considering they lost only three games with James Harden, Clint Capela and Paul in the lineup during the regular season.

The Rockets led 54-47 at halftime.

The Wolves opened the game slowly, but fought back to close the gap to six points by the end of the first quarter.

Game 2 takes place Wednesday night. Capela had 20 points and 10 rebounds at halftime, but was limited in the second half and added just four more points and two rebounds.

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