James Harden Houston Rockets
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets dribbles the ball against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on Dec. 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rob Carr/Getty Images

The race at the top of the 2018 NBA standings in the Western Conference is heating up with the All-Star break fast approaching. The Houston Rockets (33-12) are making ground on the Golden State Warriors (37-10) for the best record, while the Minnesota Timberwolves (31-18) have passed the San Antonio Spurs (30-18) for the No.3 seed.

After struggling while James Harden recovered from a hamstring injury, the Rockets have won three straight games against top contenders. Since the MVP candidate returned to the lineup, Houston has beaten Minnesota, Golden State and the Miami Heat (27-20), who are the No.4 seed in the East.

Houston is now ahead of the Boston Celtics (34-13) in the overall NBA standings, and they trail Golden State by two games in the loss column for the West’s No.1 seed. The Rockets' 116-108 victory Saturday night gave them two wins in three tries over the Warriors, and they are undefeated against Golden State when Harden plays.

“We're confident because we know if we're doing what we're supposed to do, we're going to beat them,” Rockets center Clint Capela told ESPN after Saturday’s win. “We've got to keep playing. We know that they're going to come back if we have the lead, and we've just got to keep that mindset. Sometimes I feel like, in the past, we were all dragging down after mistakes. But today, we were ready. I think that if we're doing what we're supposed to do on defense -- all the switches, the weak side -- and keep playing our offense by keeping that mentality all game long, we have the weapons to beat them.

“We are better than them.”

The Rockets are 18-0 when Harden, Capela and Chris Paul have all played this season. Paul is averaging 19.1 points and 8.9 assists per game in his first season in Houston, and Capela is averaging a double-double while leading the NBA in field-goal percentage.

Minnesota probably doesn’t have a realistic shot of contending with Golden State for the No.1 seed, but they only trail Houston by four games for the No.2 seed. A season after missing the playoffs, the Timberwolves are in the driver’s seat to get a top-three record in the conference.

The Timberwolves have passed the Spurs, who will be without their best player for an indefinite period of time. Kawhi Leonard has missed most of the season, and a shoulder injury could keep him off the court for most of San Antonio’s games before the playoffs.

Jimmy Butler leads Minnesota with 21.7 points per game in his first season with the team. Karl-Anthony Towns is scoring 20 points per contest, and his 12.1 rebounds per game put him fifth in the league.

The Oklahoma City Thunder (26-20) are three games behind San Antonio after winning four straight games. Oklahoma City blew out the Cleveland Cavaliers (27-18) by 24 points Saturday afternoon.