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MINNEAPOLIS — James Harden was Josh Okogie’s responsibility for much of Wednesday night. Even though Harden piled up 42 points, Okogie’s teammates were full of praise for the Nigerian rookie.

“It wasn’t a good 42,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “It wasn’t a 42 that he’s been getting recently, you know. He had to work for it.”

Towns had 25 points, Jeff Teague had 27 points and 12 rebounds, and Okogie locked down Harden when it counted most to help the Timberwolves beat the Houston Rockets 121-111.

Harden scored 30 or more points for the 31st consecutive game, tying Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest streak in league history.

But it was Okogie — who had 16 points — drawing the most praise for making some key defensive stops. Most notably, Okogie brought the crowd to its feet with an impressive block that helped turn the tide.

After being stripped by Okogie a few plays earlier, Harden made one of his trademark step-back moves behind the arc to attempt a 3. The ball didn’t even leave his hand before Okogie leaped forward and stuffed it.

“I knew the shot clock was winding down, and I knew that he had to create some space to get a shot off,” Okogie said. “And I knew obviously the step back is one of his go-to moves, so I kind of just guessed, and I was right.”

A few plays earlier, Okogie sparked the Timberwolves to retake the lead with an 18-2 run in the third, including a breakaway dunk and a 3-pointer to give Minnesota a 77-74 lead.

“We saw him grow up tonight in a lot of ways, I thought,” Timberwolves interim coach Ryan Saunders said of Okogie. “In terms of game plan, following the game plan, just staying within the moment and not getting outside of himself.”

Derrick Rose completed a three-point play with 1:43 left in the third to give Minnesota an 85-76 lead.

Harden’s 12-footer made it 89-all in the fourth before the Timberwolves hit four 3-pointers to take a six-point lead. Harden hit three-straight 3-pointers to pull Houston within 115-111 with 1:52 to play. But Okogie dunked and forced Harden into an airball, and Towns hit a layup to give Minnesota just enough breathing room.

“You could feel the whole game there wasn’t enough enthusiasm, not enough want,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “When we do that, we struggle because we’re not physical like the other teams.”


Harden shot 15 of 34 from the field, including 8 of 22 from 3-point range. He passed the 30-point mark on his 15th four-point play of the season, getting Okogie in the air with a step-back 3 to put Houston up 74-67 midway through the third. It was also his 22nd 40-point game of the season.

He wasn’t in a mood to say much about it afterward.

“To me, we have no tendencies right now. The tendency is just to come out slow in the third quarters,” he said.


Minnesota outscored Houston 70-36 in the paint, as the Timberwolves used sharp passes to find several open layups.

“The way they’re scoring was almost effortless,” Houston guard Chris Paul said. “We just couldn’t stop them. Teague lived the paint. Guys were driving. I think we’re 0-2 against them, so we’ve got to be better.”


Rockets: D’Antoni said C Clint Capela is expected to practice next week to determine if he can play next Thursday at the Lakers. Capela missed his 15th game with a right thumb injury suffered at Orland on Jan. 13. … Gerald Green scored 10 points off the bench in the first quarter, including 2 of 3 from the arc.

Timberwolves: Teague is averaging 19.3 points and nine assists in his three games since returning from a sore left foot. … F Andrew Wiggins missed his second straight game with an illness. F Robert Covington (knee) and G Tyus Jones (ankle) missed their 20th and 13th games, respectively. … Dario Saric again started in place of Taj Gibson. He scored 10 first-quarter points on 4-of-4 shooting to help give the Timberwolves an early eight-point lead.

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NEW YORK — Paul George, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder put this game away in a hurry.

The Thunder never trailed, bolting to a big lead and romping past the New York Knicks 127-109 on Monday.

George scored 31 points and Westbrook just missed a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. George and Westbrook both sat out the fourth quarter.

“We went out with a 20-point lead and our second unit came in and did the same thing,” George said. “At that point, game is over.”

The Knicks have lost six in a row and 14 of 15, including nine straight at Madison Square Garden.

Dennis Schroder added 17 points for the Thunder while both Jerami Grant and Abdel Nader each had 16.

Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 23 points. Allonzo Trier had 16 and Emmanuel Mudiay scored 14.

George opened the scoring with a three-point play and the Thunder never trailed in the game. They led 34-12 late in the first quarter.

“It’s the one-quarter woes,” Hardaway said. “We have to come out more aggressive. You just have to keep looking ahead. You can’t take any of these seconds, minutes or hours back.”

New York got within 15 before Westbrook’s three-point play gave Oklahoma City a 61-37 lead with 2:21 left in the second quarter.

Oklahoma City shot 61.9 percent (13 of 21) on 3-pointers in the first half and 51.7 percent (15 of 29) overall.

“We did a good job,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “One of the things that helped is we shot really well from beyond the 3-point line in the first half, and really the whole game.”

The Knicks got no closer than 14 the rest of the way.

Steve Adams added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Thunder, who have won two straight after losing five of their previous six games.

Enes Kanter had 11 points and Noah Vonleh 10 for the Knicks.


Thunder: Since moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City prior to the 2008-09 season, the Thunder have posted a 15-6 record against the Knicks, including wins in six of the last seven meetings.

Knicks: Vonleh is the only Knick to play in all 45 games this season. He has started 38 times, second most on the team behind Hardaway (41) . Kanter returned to action after missing three games.


The Knicks have usually excelled on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. New York has gone 21-12 overall since the national holiday was first observed in 1986. The Knicks lost to the 76ers on January 20, 1986, but won their next their next nine games on the holiday.

“It’s a blessing to be able to play on Martin Luther King Day,” Westbrook said. “The things he’s done for guys like myself and guys in this locker room to be able to go out and play, to walk around freely and do things in the world is exceptional.”


Oklahoma City has four players averaging at least 15 points per game (George, Westbrook, Adams, Schroder). Only five other NBA teams (Bucks, Clippers, Pelicans, Rockets, 76ers) have as many. In contrast, the Knicks only have one (Hardaway).


The Knicks haven’t won at home since a 136-134 overtime victory against the Bucks on Dec. 1. New York is now 4-14 at MSG.

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CHICAGO — One of two brothers charged in the Chicago fatal shooting of Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade’s cousin has pleaded guilty to murder.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Derren Sorrells entered the plea Tuesday to a first-degree murder charge in the 2016 shooting of 32-year-old Nykea Aldridge.

Sorrells admitted to firing shots at a man he thought was in a rival gang. The bullets struck Aldridge as she pushed her infant daughter in a stroller along a street on Chicago’s South Side.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Sorrells will receive a 27-year prison sentence. His brother, Darwin Sorrells Jr., has a hearing scheduled Wednesday.

Wade, a native of the Chicago area, lashed out against the city’s gun laws in the days after Aldridge’s killing. He called them weak and urged officials in his hometown to make the city safer.