Russell Westbrook paired a season-high 45 points with 10 assists and carried the Houston Rockets to a 131-124 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in Minneapolis.
Westbrook scored 27 second-half points and dominated down the stretch to help the Rockets fend off the Timberwolves, who attempted to rally behind Karl-Anthony Towns (30 points, 12 rebounds) and Andrew Wiggins (28 points).
Minnesota's losing skid was extended to eight games.
With James Harden scoring a season-low 12 points on 3-of-13 shooting, including 0-of-6 from 3-point range, the Rockets turned to reserve guards Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers to provide Westbrook support. Gordon added a season-high 27 points and Rivers tallied 16 points. Westbrook also grabbed six rebounds and finished 13 of 13 from the free-throw line.
After Josh Okogie's two free throws pulled Minnesota within 115-112 with 3:57 to go, Westbrook played a role in two baskets that sandwiched an offensive foul called against Towns. Westbrook followed the Okogie free throws with a layup before finding Gordon for a 3-pointer and a 120-112 lead.
Towns found foul trouble early, heading to the bench after picking up his second at the 7:16 mark of the opening period. The Rockets were just two points into a 13-0 run when Towns took a seat, and Houston grabbed a 17-10 lead after Rivers and Danuel House Jr. drilled consecutive 3-pointers.
Excluding Westbrook, the true linchpin for Houston in the opening period was Rivers, who made all five of his shot attempts and matched Westbrook with 12 points in the period. Minnesota helped the Rockets' cause with eight first-quarter turnovers, but the Timberwolves clawed back from a 13-point deficit by holding Houston scoreless for more than three minutes in the second.
Minnesota trailed just 63-60 at the break, courtesy of 21 bench points plus 11 points and seven rebounds from Towns despite his foul woes. When the Timberwolves opened the second half with a 13-4 surge, they led 73-67, forcing the Rockets to turn to Westbrook to rescue them once again.
--Field Level Media