There was little reason to expect Rockets guard James Harden to allow left shoulder soreness to slow his charge toward history. He'd long ago confirmed his wiliness to play through ailments.
With just two games remaining prior to the All-Star break, there was a window for Harden to rest his shooting shoulder, injured on Saturday in an early-game collision with behemoth Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams. But on Monday against the Dallas Mavericks, Harden pushed through the discomfort and rode some late-game heroics to his 30th consecutive 30-point game and a 120-104 home victory.
Harden scored 11 of his 31 points over the final 2:32 to stave off a Dallas rally and etch his name alongside Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in league history to score at least 30 points in 30 consecutive games. As for his availability on Wednesday when the Rockets (33-23) visit the Minnesota Timberwolves, there is no ambiguity.
"He's going to play," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said of Harden. "You might as well get used to it, the guy's going to play. Hopefully, we can keep his minutes down a little bit; he had 35 (against the Mavericks) and that's where he should be. If we can keep him there he's fine.
"We've got to keep the load off of him. It's not the minutes, it's what he has to do in those minutes."
The Rockets can advance that goal with continued complementary scoring. While Harden paced Houston in scoring for a 35th consecutive game, four others reached at least 17 points against Dallas, lessening the load on Harden as he struggled to find his shot through the pain.
Injuries have stalled the Rockets' egalitarian approach. Of late, they're rounding into form.
"I think guys are doing a good job of playing hard with the minutes they're in there," Rockets guard Chris Paul said. "For us, it's not about tonight, it's about building for the playoffs, and in order for us to do that, everybody has to continue to be happy for each other and keep playing."
The Timberwolves (26-30) found a salve for their injury issues on Monday, juggling their short-handed lineup before clawing out a 130-120 home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Minnesota relied on the makeshift combination of point guards Jeff Teague (19 points, 10 assists) and Derrick Rose (22 points, six assists), marking the first time both were available in 10 games. Teague had missed eight consecutive contests with a sore left foot before returning Friday, while Rose, who reached double figures in points for the first time since Jan. 20, had been sidelined in six of seven games with a sore right ankle. They shot a combined 15 of 33 overall.
The Timberwolves were without forwards Robert Covington (ankle) and Andrew Wiggins (illness), and guard Tyus Jones (ankle). Veteran Luol Deng started for Wiggins, his first start since the opener last season when he made his lone appearance with the Los Angeles Lakers, and played 38 minutes, collecting 12 points and nine rebounds.
Additionally, Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders inserted Dario Saric in the starting lineup ahead of veteran Taj Gibson, and Saric responded with 19 points, eight rebounds and a pair of steals.
"I've thought about it and I like how Dario spaces the floor, especially with (All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns) ... commanding a ton of attention down there (in the paint)," Saunders said. "And sometimes at this point in the season, you need to shake something up a little bit."
The Timberwolves won the first meeting with the Rockets this season, a 103-91 decision at home on Dec. 3.
--Field Level Media
Harden not resting as Rockets visit Wolves