By the Associated Press
HOUSTON — James Harden didn’t have much to say after he surpassed 20,000 points on Saturday in Houston’s blowout win over Minnesota.
“It’s a great accomplishment obviously,” he said. “I have a bigger picture and bigger goals but it’s pretty cool.”
Teammate and longtime friend Russell Westbrook, who also played in the game when Harden got the first points of his NBA career, was much more effusive in his comments about the milestone.
“To be able to do that on a very, very high level is something we don’t take for granted,” Westbrook said. “Growing up in L.A. and being able to see him progress over the years to me is just a blessing to see as his friend and I’m truly happy for him.”
Harden scored 32 points in three quarters to help the Rockets roll to the 139-109 victory.
Houston led by double figures for most of the game and used a huge run in the third quarter to put the game out of reach and bounce back after a lopsided loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
The 30-year-old Harden, who had 12 rebounds and eight assists, is the 45th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points and the seventh-youngest. He entered the game 10 points away and reached the milestone in fitting fashion, on a step-back 3-pointer midway through the second quarter.
The public address announcer simply said 20,000 after Harden hit the shot, before a video was played during the next timeout to mark the occasion. The video showed him making his first points in the NBA while with the Thunder, then making a free throw that gave him 10,000 points and a replay of the 3 that got him to 20,000.
He got the game ball on Saturday and presented it to his mother.
“‘She has everything,” Harden said. “Every goal and achievement that I have, she has it. I gave it to her and she’ll put it in a safe place.”
Already without Clint Capela because of a bruised heel, the Rockets lost fellow starter P.J. Tucker early in the first quarter when he fell hard on his right shoulder. But Houston was just fine without them thanks to another big game from Harden and a 30-point performance by Westbrook.
Josh Okogie had 16 points off the bench for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns remained out with a left knee sprain that has had him sidelined since mid-December. The 30-point defeat was their largest loss of the season.
“We need to be better in terms of withstanding runs, especially against a good team,” coach Ryan Saunders said.
“You give them credit. They got us tonight.”
The Rockets were up by 16 at halftime and 17 in the third quarter before scoring the next 16 points to push the lead to 89-56 with about 5 minutes left in the quarter.
Harden made two 3-pointers in that span and added another three points when he was fouled on a 3 and made all the free throws. The Timberwolves had three turnovers, including two from Andrew Wiggins, to help Houston pad the lead.
Minnesota cut the lead to 26 entering the fourth quarter, but the Rockets extended it to 115-82 with about 9 minutes left by opening the quarter with a 13-6 run.
Westbrook made a layup soon after that before stealing the ball on a bad pass by Jeff Teague and dishing it to Ben McLemore, who found Thabo Sefolosha for a 3 that made it 124-86. The Timberwolves called a timeout and all of Houston’s starters except Isaiah Hartenstein went to the bench after that with about 8 minutes to go.
Hartenstein started in place of Capela and had 17 points and 15 rebounds. Eric Gordon added 17 points and tied a season high with five 3-pointers.