Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets clinched their third straight postseason berth with a 120-110 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.
Houston hit a season-high 20 3-point shots, led by James Harden's six and Jason Terry's five to win its third straight game. Harden paced all scorers with 33, and Terry finished with 17.
Dwight Howard scored 18 in 20 minutes for the Rockets, and Josh Smith added 16 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
"My teammates found me in great spots, I just finished them off," Howard said. "I was out there just trying to do whatever I can... just trying to be a presence on the defensive end."
The Timberwolves lost for the third time in four games despite 31 points from star rookie Andrew Wiggins. Chase Budinger added a season-high 23 points, and Gorgui Dieng finished with 18 points and 12 boards.
"He's had a great year," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said of Wiggins. "In this league, you have to have someone that can create something out of nothing, and that's what he can do."
Early in the third, Houston went on a 9-0 run with six points from Harden to go up 74-57, but the Timberwolves battled back. A 7-0 run of their own late in the quarter cut their deficit to five before the Rockets finished the period with a 90-80 lead.
Minnesota was within seven with less than 4 1/2 minutes to play before a 9-2 Houston spurt put the game away. Smith's kick out pass set up a Terry 3, and Terry then assisted on Harden's fastbreak dunk after a Trevor Ariza steal. Howard's alley-oop dunk from Harden gave Houston a 115-101 lead with 2:50 to play, and it held on from there.
The Rockets made their first five shots from the field and jumped out to a 13-2 lead, but the Minnesota defense eventually settled in. The Timberwolves scored seven points off six Houston turnovers in the first quarter, but two buckets for the Rockets in the final 40 seconds extended their lead to 31-22 after one.
Smith and Howard hooked up on back-to-back alley-oops early in the second to give the Rockets a 40-24 lead. Neither team had a problem scoring points in the period, and Houston led 60-50 at the break.
Houston has attempted 2,392 3-pointers this season, setting a new NBA record ... The Rockets won for the fourth straight time against Minnesota ... Houston's Donatas Motiejunas sat out with a back injury ... Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine finished with 11 points and eight assists.