Rockets lose 121-111, Harden ties Wilt

3-pointers from Rockets loss to Timberwolves

3-pointers from Rockets loss to Timberwolves

In their final game before the all-star break the Houston Rockets traveled to Minnesota to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. It was a back and forth battle between a T-Wolves team strong in the interior and a Rockets team more comfortable raining shots from distance. Minnesota would turn the tide late in the third with key defensive stops, defeating Houston 121-111 behind an impressive showing from rookie Josh Okogie. Houston is now 33-24, first in the Southwest Division, and fifth in the Western Conference.

Strength versus strength

The Timberwolves are big. The Rockets can shoot. Wednesday ultimately came down to who was the saltiest on defense because very little was done to challenge each other's strengths. Houston fired off 53 three pointers in a contest where they were bludgeoned in the paint 70-36. The difference is that the Rocket's shots weren't falling, shooting a collective 35.8% from behind the line. Poor shooting, coupled with timely defense from the opponent more often results in defeat.

Josh Okogie

The Timberwolves rookie drew one of the most difficult assignments in the NBA when he lined up across from James Harden Wednesday night. Undeterred, Okogie went to work and came up clutch late in the third with five straight points to take the lead. Okogie immediately set up on the other end after burying a three, and as Harden lurched back for his trademark step back 3-pointer, Okogie lunged forward and stuffed the shot before the ball left Hardens hands. Shot clock violation. Turnover. While Harden still finished the night with another eye-popping scoring performance, it was obvious that play was the turning point from which the Timberwolves built their momentum to finish the game with a victory.

Streak watch

These days the first question Rockets fans have is whether or not the team won. Immediately following is whether or not Harden scored 30 points to continue his unreal streak. Harden started the night off slow, scoring only five points in the first quarter. He shook off the slow start to the tune of 15 in the second, 11 in the third, and 11 in the fourth. Harden finished with 42 points on the night, extending his streak of consecutive 30+ point performances to 31. The streak ties Wilt Chamberlain for second most in NBA history, behind Wilt Chamberlain's other unworldly record of 65.

Rockets player of the game:

James Harden: 42 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds

Timberwolves player of the game:

Jeff Teague: 27 points, 12 assists, 3 rebounds

Next up


Nothing for a week. Following the All Star break, Houston travels to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers next Thursday at 9:30 pm.

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Allen had high praise for Diggs. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images.

Impersonal as it might seem to have their dynamic on-field relationship end with an exchange of phone texts, Bills quarterback Josh Allen made it clear on Thursday how much receiver Stefon Diggs meant to him during their four seasons together in Buffalo.

Allen made no mention of Diggs’ mercurial temperament or the occasional sideline flare-ups by expressing only praise in his first opportunity to discuss his now-former teammate being traded to the Houston Texans earlier this month.

“Just thanking him for everything that he did for me, and (I’ll) always have a spot in my heart for him. I’ll always love that guy like a brother. And I wish him nothing but the best,” Allen said, in disclosing what he texted to Diggs. “My lasting memory of Stef will be the receiver that helped me become the quarterback that I am today.”

Brought together in March 2020, when Buffalo gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Diggs in a trade with Minnesota, the duo went on to re-write many of Buffalo's single-season passing and scoring records, and lead the team to four straight AFC East titles.

Diggs, now 30, also brought an inescapable sense of drama with him in raising questions about his commitment to the Bills and whether his tight relationship with Allen had soured.

A day before being traded, Diggs posted a message, “You sure?” on the social media platform X in response to someone suggesting he wasn’t essential to Allen’s success.

Whatever hard feelings, if any, lingered as Buffalo opened its voluntary workout sessions this week were not apparent from Allen or coach Sean McDermott, who also addressed reporters for the first time since Diggs was traded.

“Stef’s a great player, really enjoyed our time together. Won a lot of games and he was a huge factor in winning those games. We’ll miss him,” McDermott said. “You never replace a player like Stef Diggs, and we wish him well.”

Allen turned his focus to the future and a Bills team that spent much of the offseason retooling an aging and expensive roster.

Aside from trading Diggs, salary cap restrictions led to Buffalo cutting respected center Mitch Morse, the breakup of a veteran secondary that had been together since 2017, and the team unable to afford re-signing No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis.

“I don’t think it’s a wrong thing or a bad thing to get younger,” said Allen, entering his seventh NFL season. “I think it’s an opportunity for myself to grow as a leader. And to bring along some of these young guys and new guys that we’ve brought in to our team. And that’s an opportunity, frankly, that I’m very excited about."

Despite the departures, the Bills offense is not exactly lacking even though general manager Brandon Beane is expected to target selecting a receiver with his first pick — currently 28th overall — in the draft next week.

Receiver Khalil Shakir enters his third year and tight end Dalton Kincaid enter his second following promising seasons. Buffalo also added veteran experience in signing free agent receiver Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins.

While Beane acknowledged the Bills lack a true No. 1 receiver, he noted there’s less urgency to fill that spot now than in 2020 because of how much the offense has developed under Allen.

“Now that Josh has ascended to the player he is, is that a requirement? I don’t think so,” Beane said.

Diggs’ role also began diminishing in the second half of last season, which coincided with Joe Brady replacing Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator. Brady placed an emphasis on adding balance to a pass-heavy attack and getting more receivers involved, which led to an uptick in production for Shakir and Kincaid.

While Diggs’ numbers dropped, Buffalo’s win total increased.

With the Bills at 6-6, Diggs ranked third in the NFL with 83 catches, seventh with 969 yards and tied for third with eight TDs receiving. Buffalo then closed the season with five straight wins in which Diggs combined for 24 catches for 214 yards and no scores.

”(Diggs) meant a lot. You look at the statistics, they don’t lie,” Allen said, in referring to Diggs topping 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons in Buffalo. “I don’t get paid to make changes on the team. I get paid to be the best quarterback that I can be and try to lead the guys on this team.”

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