HOUSTON (AP) — Trailing by 1 in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Houston Rockets needed someone to step up.

No surprise that it was James Harden who came through.

Harden scored 44 points and powered a big fourth-quarter run that allowed the Rockets to outlast the Timberwolves 104-101 Sunday night in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.

"We were struggling to make shots, struggling to really have any kind of rhythm and James put us on his back," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's been doing it for a while now."

Minnesota scored four straight points to get within 3 with about 30 seconds left. Chris Paul added two free throws after that for Houston, but a tip-in by Karl-Anthony Towns got Minnesota back within 3. After a bad pass by Paul gave the Timberwolves a chance to tie it with 1.5 seconds left, Jimmy Butler's shot was short.

The Rockets swept the regular-season series 4-0, winning by an average of 15.8 points a game and it looked like this one might be another blowout early as the Rockets raced out to a 17-6 lead behind 10 early points from Clint Capela. But the Timberwolves got going after that and had tied it up by late in the first quarter.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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