Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 11/15

Game 1: Tuesday, November 15th
Game 2: Friday, January 27th
Game 3: Tuesday, March 7th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 12th

Rockets 93

(28-33, 16-15 away)

Timberwolves 87

(26-33, 18-14 home)

Coverage: FSSW

7:00 PM ET, March 7, 2006

Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 16 20 25 3293
MIN 25 13 29 2087

Top Performers

Houston: Y. Ming 30 Pts, 13 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Blk

Minnesota: K. Garnett 15 Pts, 21 Reb, 5 Ast, 4 Stl, 2 Blk

Yao tops 20 points for eighth consecutive game

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With Yao Ming emerging as an offensive force, the Houston Rockets didn't need Tracy McGrady on Tuesday night.

Yao topped 20 points for the eighth straight game, scoring 30 points and grabbing 13 rebounds to lead the Rockets to a 93-87 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With McGrady on the bench again with back problems, Yao dominated the paint and Stromile Swift added 11 points and nine boards off the bench for Houston, which used a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter to get their third straight victory.

"Without McGrady our record is pretty poor," Yao said of the Rockets' 2-13 mark without their star forward. "Before today we only had one. I really feel a lot of pressure because my teammates look to me and my opponent focuses on me, double team a lot, but we're here, there's no way back. we can only go forward and we came out with the victory."

Kevin Garnett made only six of 17 shots, but scored 15 points and had 21 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who didn't score in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, missing their first 12 shots.

Garnett played the game with a heavy heart after former Minnesota Twins' star Kirby Puckett -- his friend and mentor -- died on Monday. Garnett looked up -- figuratively, of course -- to the 5-foot-8 ball of personality, perhaps the only athlete in Minnesota to exceed K.G.'s popularity.

"It's been a rough 48 hours just for me personally," said Garnett, who inscribed his shoes with "KP 34" in honor of Puckett.

Marcus Banks scored many of his 26 points with the game already decided, and Mark Blount scored 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter before fouling out for the Timberwolves.

"It was terrible. We gave the game away tonight," Ricky Davis said. "Everybody has to take initiative and take it upon themselves to not lose leads and stay on them. ... We just went back to our bad habit we've been having trouble with -- losing our focus."

The Rockets again were without McGrady, their leading scorer at 24.6 points a game, after his bothersome back flared up in Sunday's game against Portland.

McGrady scored 18 points in the win over the Blazers before leaving late in the third quarter. He was a game-time decision on Tuesday night, but Keith Bogans started in his place.

When McGrady goes to the bench, it's almost always bad news for the Rockets.

But Yao more than compensated, extending his career-best streak of 20-plus points in style. He was aggressive all night, using an impressive array of turnaround jumpers, bull rushes to the rim and soft hook shots.

"I know at least in the last five games, to me he's completely dominated," David Wesley said. "Numbers like 29 [points] and 15 [rebounds], 22 and 21, double-doubles every night -- not just 15 and 10, we're talking big double-doubles. That's big. It gives us a major presence in the paint. ... He's carrying the load right now."

The undersized Wolves didn't have an answer. Blount got off to a fast start, but was overwhelmed down the stretch, as was Eddie Griffin and even Garnett.

"He's a handful for us down there wrestling with him," Wolves coach Dwane Casey said. "He's really played well and been a force."

Blount went right at Yao to start the game, scoring 12 points in the first quarter to help the Timberwolves to a 25-16 lead.

The Timberwolves made 12 of their first 19 shots, nearly all of them mid-range jumpers. But they hit a drought at the end of the first period, missing nine straight shots, a precursor of things to come.

After spending a chunk of the period on the bench with foul trouble, Yao returned to score six straight points for a 61-60 lead in the third period.

Rafer Alston added 17 points and five assists for Houston, which shot just 39 percent from the field, but made 47 percent of its 3-pointers (7-of-15) to overcome a six-point deficit to start the fourth.

Game notes

Prior to the game, the Timberwolves showed a short video tribute and held a moment of silence for Puckett, a Wolves season-ticket holder. ... The fourth quarter started twice. The two teams played for about 15-20 seconds before officials noticed the clock was malfunctioning. Since no points were scored or possession changed hands, the officials decided to have a "re-do" and start the period over. ... The Rockets' outscored the Wolves in bench points 24-6.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 93 87
FGM-FGA 29-73 (.397) 34-87 (.391)
3PM-3PA 7-15 (.467) 4-10 (.400)
FTM-FTA 28-45 (.622) 15-21 (.714)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 10-54 9-43
Assists 21 22
Turnovers 15 8
Steals 4 7
Blocks 5 7
Fast Break Points 7 18
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 18 (0/0) 27 (0/0)
Largest Lead 12 11

Top Performers

Yao Ming Ming
Points: 30
Reb: 13
Ast: 1
Stl: 0
Blk: 4
Kevin Garnett Garnett
Points: 15
Reb: 21
Ast: 5
Stl: 4
Blk: 2