MINNEAPOLIS — Whenever the Minnesota Timberwolves threatened, the Houston Rockets had an answer.
It usually came from long range.
The Rockets hit 10 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 126-108 victory on Tuesday night, extending their winning streak to nine.
"I knew we were making our shots, but that fourth quarter, that's what we're capable of," said Rockets guard James Harden. "I think it was a four-point game and we went on a 12-0. That's how fast it was."
Harden had 34 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. Ryan Anderson scored 21 points off the bench as the Rockets (43-13) snapped Minnesota's 13-game home winning streak and pulled within a half-game of the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA. Houston has won 16 of its last 18 games.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 35 points and 12 rebounds in Minnesota's first home loss since Dec. 16 against Phoenix. Jeff Teague added 25 points and eight assists, and Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 11 points after starting 0 for 6 from the floor.
Minnesota led by as many as 13 in the first quarter before Houston went on a run to take a four-point halftime lead. Trailing by 11, the Rockets used a 15-3 run to take their first lead at 35-34.
Houston used 3-pointers to keep Minnesota at bay throughout the game and then to pull away late. Anderson scored 12 in the fourth quarter, all from 3-point range.
"He shoots it deep, so we have to understand that he shoots it deep," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's probably three feet beyond the 3, so you have to close and have an awareness as to what we're doing."
Anderson hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the period to push Houston's lead back to double digits and hit two more later in the quarter. Harden also connected three times from deep in the fourth. The Rockets as a team connected on 10-of-16 3-pointers in the fourth quarter alone.
"Tonight they played a big lineup so we wanted to take advantage of our switches and our mismatches, and we did that," Anderson said.
After turning the ball over four times in the first quarter, the Rockets had just two turnovers the rest of the way. That allowed Houston to get its offence in a rhythm in the second half, when it outscored Minnesota 72-58.
The Timberwolves trailed just 95-91, but Houston hit four straight 3-pointers to take a 107-91 lead in a span of just over two minutes.
Minnesota was just 6 of 23 from deep. Harden and Anderson each hit as many shots from behind the arc as the Wolves did as a team.
"It's very hard when they shoot 3s like that," Towns said. "If they're hitting 3s and we're coming back with 2s, they get a one-point advantage and an up-and-down possession. When they got it rolling like that, it's very hard to stop them."
Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins missed his first 12 field goal attempts. Wiggins entered Tuesday's game shooting 55.6 per cent in his previous four games. He finished 2 for 14.
Rockets: Brandan Wright did not play, one day after signing with Houston as a free agent. He played in 27 games for Memphis this season. ... The Rockets have won 16 of their last 18 meetings against Minnesota.
Timberwolves: Towns tallied his league-leading 50th double-double. ... Minnesota is now 16-2 at home this season against Western Conference opponents.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
The Rockets' jerseys Tuesday had the team's name written in Chinese characters on the front to celebrate Chinese New Year, which occurs this Friday.
TRIBUTE TO FLIP
On Thursday, Minnesota will hold Flip Saunders Night in memory of the team's former coach and president of basketball operations who died in October 2015. A banner honouring Saunders will be raised before the game against the Lakers.
Rockets: Visit Sacramento on Wednesday.
Timberwolves: Host Lost Angeles Lakers on Thursday.