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Rockets topple Timberwolves, Cavs hold on to edge Magic

Eric Gordon scored 30 points as the Houston Rockets defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-98, on January 18, 2018 © GETTY/AFP/File / Christian Petersen

LOS ANGELES, United States, Jan 19Eric Gordon scored 30 points and James Harden added 10 in his return from injury as the Houston Rockets defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-98 on Thursday.

Harden was back in the lineup after missing seven games with a left hamstring strain and finished with 10 points on three-of-15 shooting. He played 26 minutes and also had seven assists, two steals and two blocks.

Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Clint Capela added 20 points in the win. Houston has won 15 of the past 17 meetings with Minnesota, including a 10-game winning streak at home.

Coming into the NBA contest, Harden was leading the league in scoring (32.3 points) and ranked third in assists (9.1). He suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of a double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on December 31.

Harden also extended his streak of double-digit scoring games to 227, the second-longest active streak behind Cleveland’s LeBron James (834).

Gordon’s three-pointer helped the Rockets finish the third quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 89-70 lead into the fourth with their largest advantage of the game.

With Rockets forward Trevor Ariza sitting out the first part of a two-game suspension for a postgame locker room incident on Monday in Los Angeles, Luc Mbah a Moute started in Ariza’s spot, scoring 14 points.

Along with Ariza, guard Gerald Green was also serving the first of a two-game suspension for the altercation with the Clippers.

Jimmy Butler led Minnesota with 23 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 points and 16 rebounds and five blocks. Andrew Wiggins finished with 16 points.

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Elsewhere, Isaiah Thomas made two clutch free throws with 11 seconds remaining as Cleveland blew a 23-point lead but managed to hold on for a 104-103 win over the Orlando Magic.

Cleveland’s James finished with 16 points and now needs 25 to become the seventh player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points. He’ll likely reach the milestone on Saturday when Cleveland hosts Oklahoma City.

James committed six turnovers and went two of eight from the free-throw line on Thursday for Cleveland who earned just their fourth win in their last 13 games. Thomas finished with 21 points.

“We know we’ve been struggling as of late,” James said. “We’re just trying to figure out how we can put two halves together.

“We’ve got to keep pushing, keep watching film and seeing ways we can be better.”

Cleveland guard Derrick Rose returned after missing more than two months with ankle injuries and scored nine points in 13 minutes.

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