7:30 PM ET, November 11, 2004
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
HOUSTON (AP) -- Eddie Griffin expected and embraced the boos, knowing he'd get a chance to quiet them all.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
Garnett had the Rockets on the hook with 20 points, 17 boards and 9 dimes.
Garnett finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists, and Griffin added 11 points and seven rebounds against the team with which he began his troubled career, sending the Timberwolves past a Rockets team missing leading scorer Tracy McGrady.
The boos "just made me play harder," Griffin said, a smile forming on his lips. "It's nice to show them that I can still play. It's more meaningful when it's against my old team."
McGrady missed his first game of the season with nagging hip and groin strains. He said during Wednesday's practice that he might try to play, but instead he took a few shots during pregame warmups and later came back to the bench in a dark brown suit.
The Rockets really could've used him.
Filling in for McGrady, third-year swingman Bostjan Nachbar scored 11 points in the first half but was shut out after that. Rockets guard Jim Jackson also started fast, scoring nine in the first two quarters but only four after the break.
"You can't play half the game well, and not the other half," Yao said. "We had chances to come back, but we just couldn't quite get it done."
Meanwhile, Garnett took over in the second half.
The NBA's reigning MVP controlled the boards, poked away passes into the post and even guarded the 7-foot-6 Yao at times in the fourth as Minnesota held off a late Rockets rally.
After Houston fell behind by 13 in the first half, Yao took control late, demanding the ball down low and making strong moves to the hoop to draw fouls. He took 16 free throws, making 13.
"He just played a little tired, but I thought he was very assertive offensively," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Getting to the free-throw line 16 times is a great accomplishment, could have probably been there a little more even."
Early in the fourth, Yao spun around Ervin Johnson on the baseline and threw down a two-handed slam to give the Rockets a 76-73 lead.
But Garnett quickly answered with a jumper, and Griffin hit a free throw to tie it at 80 and a 3 to give Minnesota a lead it never relinquished.
Griffin played against the Rockets for the first time since being released last season by the team that traded for him on the night of the 2001 draft. He missed last season while recovering from a slew of off-court problems but signed with the Timberwolves about a month ago and played in his first game on Tuesday.
After entering Thursday's game late in the first quarter, Griffin quickly knocked down a 15-foot jumper, drawing a chorus of boos from the crowd.
"We just let him know it's a clean slate here," Garnett said. "He's taking the opportunity and making it good. The crowd was getting on him a little. But they say when they boo you, they really love you."
Griffin eventually quieted the fans, though, coming up with the kind of big plays Rockets fans thought the No. 7 overall pick would make when he came to Houston.
"Since this is only the second time he's played in 17 months, he did really a nice job," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "I thought he played well. He made some big shots and ... he worked defensively real well trying to front Yao."
Leaning back in a chair after the game, Griffin looked more relaxed and peaceful than he ever did during his two turbulent seasons with the Rockets.
He even wondered if his career might have taken a different turn in Houston had he played with veterans such as Garnett and Sam Cassell earlier in his career.
"Everybody is responsible for their own actions," Griffin said. "But I think that if there were more veterans, like these guys, that maybe it would have been a better situation."
Minnesota ended Houston's three-game winning streak. ... Taylor drew a few oohs from the crowd late in the second quarter when he made Garnett tumble to the floor after a crossover dribble. Taylor then dished off to Nachbar for a 3. ... Nachbar finished a point shy of his career high. ... Garnett needed one more assist for his 15th career regular-season triple double.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||33-72 (.458)||34-78 (.436)|
|3PM-3PA||4-13 (.308)||7-14 (.500)|
|FTM-FTA||26-33 (.788)||16-22 (.727)|
|Fast Break Points||2||4|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||21 (0/0)||25 (1/0)|