Paul scores 25 to lead Rockets over Wolves

HOUSTON (AP) — After several less-than-stellar third quarters recently, the Houston Rockets talked at halftime on Sunday night about coming out of the break better. And, it was that third-quarter improvement that helped them to the win.

Chris Paul scored 25 points, tied a career high with six three-pointers and had 10 assists, and the Rockets used a big third quarter to pull away and get a 117-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The game was close throughout the first half and the Rockets were up by a point at halftime before using a 43-point third quarter, with from Paul, to extend the lead to 15 to start the fourth.

“Our focus was better coming out of the locker room,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. They talked about it among themselves — that we’ve been coming out kind of soft and we didn’t this time. We came out more focussed, especially on the offensive end.”

Paul’s big game came after he sat out last Friday night to rest, but he wasn’t sure how much the break helped.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t even think about it. For me, it’s just about making sure that stuff was right with my body.”

Houston had a 14-point lead with about nine minutes left before using a 10-2 run, with five points from Clint Capela, to make it 106-84 with over five minutes to go.

Houston Rockets’ James Harden (L) shoots as Minnesota Timberwolves’ Josh Okogie defends. – AP

James Harden added 20 points and 10 assists despite dealing with a strained neck after a fall in last Friday’s win over the Suns, and Capela scored 20 with 13 rebounds. Harden liked the way the team played in the third quarter, but still sees room for improvement.

“We’re trying to build on that,” he said. “We’re trying to get better. We’ve got 12 games to do it.”

Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have dropped their last three.

He was disappointed that they let things get away from them in the third quarter after playing well before halftime.

“We just didn’t hit shots, we didn’t shoot well and they shot well when they needed to,” he said. “They were having their run and we had to stop the bleeding and we just didn’t a good job of that.”

The victory allows Houston, which has won 11 of its last 12 games overall, to avoid being swept by the Timberwolves this season after they won the first two meetings.

Houston led by one at halftime and used an 8-2 run, with consecutive 3s from Eric Gordon, to extend the lead to 58-51 early in the third.

A jump shot by Towns cut the lead to six later in the third before Paul made a three, stole the ball from Jones and hit another three seconds later to make it 70-58.

The Timberwolves called a timeout before Capela made two free throws and Paul made another three to push Houston’s run to 11-0 and extend the lead to 75-58.

An 8-2 run by Minnesota, with all the points by Taj Gibson, cut the lead to 90-78 late in the third. But Paul was fouled on a three-pointer after that and made all three free throws to leave Houston up by 15 entering the fourth.