Chris Paul scored 15 of his 25 points in the third for the Rockets, who turned a 50-49 halftime edge into a 31-point advantage after the torrid 12-minute span, The Associated Press reported.
The only team with more points in one quarter of an NBA playoff game was the Los Angeles Lakers, who scored 51 in the fourth quarter on March 31, 1962, in a loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Harden finished with 36 points on 12-for-26 shooting, Clint Capela added 14 points and 17 rebounds, Eric Gordon finally got going with 18 points off the bench, and the Rockets easily recovered from their rough start.
They can wrap up the series in Game 5 tonight in Houston.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were dominated on both ends of the floor during the decisive third and missed 14 of 21 shots over a string of panicked possessions.
In Game 3, the Timberwolves had rebounded from two defeats on the road by matching the Rockets with 15 three-pointers, a startling development given that the Rockets led the league in that category during the regular season and the Timberwolves were last.
Derrick Rose, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds, was the catalyst off the bench, muscling in for layups on fast breaks and in half-court sets. Minnesota’s starting point guard, Jeff Teague, had only two points on 1-for-7 shooting while fighting through an injury to his right pinkie.
Harden did not make a basket until five minutes 57 seconds remained in the second quarter, when his 10-foot floater fell in to cut Minnesota’s lead to 39-37. He swished one of his signature step-back three-pointers on the next possession, and Houston was back in front to sow the seeds for the staggering third quarter.
Just as in Game 2, the Rockets raced out of the gate after the half. Harden scored 17 of their first 20 points. The Wolves star Jimmy Butler, on the other hand, started forcing off-balance shots.
Butler, who finished with 19 points, and Andrew Wiggins, who had 14, combined to shoot 12 for 31 from the field for Minnesota.
When Gordon sank a three-pointer at the end of the quarter, Houston had a 100-69 lead.