HOUSTON, Jan. 7 (Ticker) -- Until Wally Szczerbiak suits up for the Minnesota Timberwolves again, NBA mascots better look out for Kevin Garnett.

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Frustrated after his team gave up 19 unanswered points in the second quarter, Garnett pushed the Houston Rockets' mascot out of his way in a lighthearted moment of the Timberwolves' 94-86 setback, their third in four games.

The mascot exaggerated a flop onto its back, drawing laughter from the Compaq Center crowd.

"I was totally playing," Garnett said. "The only mascot I don't like is that coyote in San Antonio. I was just playing with the mascot here."

Szczerbiak, an All-Star last season, has played just four games due to a sprained little toe on his left foot. He was activated from the injured list Monday but did not dress for this contest.

"When we do get him back, he will help us stretch out the defense, and that will help out KG," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.

"I hope we can get him back on the court," Garnett added. "He can help us, but he's not on the court just yet."

Minnesota led, 23-15, after Marc Jackson hit a jumper 68 seconds into the second quarter. But the Rockets responded with big contributions from reserves Maurice Taylor and Kelvin Cato, who scored six and five points, respectively, during the run.

Cato's alley-oop dunk with 7:49 left in the period gave Houston the lead for good, 24-23, and fellow reserve James Posey capped the burst with a jumper that made it 34-23 with 4:40 left before halftime.

"Our defense carried us during that stretch," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "That is what the defense has to be like if you want to win in this league."

The Timberwolves went more than six minutes without scoring until Garnett nailed a turnaround jumper with 4:31 to play.

"We had great looks," said Minnesota guard Kendall Gill, who scored 17 points. "We just couldn't hit a shot. Unfortunately, that's a tell-tale sign of the game. When you miss jumpers, it gives fast-break opportunities to them."

Cuttino Mobley scored 19 points, Taylor a season-high 18 and Glen Rice 15 for the Rockets, who had lost four of their previous six games. Rookie Yao Ming finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.

"Today, I especially felt like I did two years ago," said Taylor, who missed last season with an Achilles tendon injury. "I had lateral movement and my legs didn't get fatigued. It's coming."

"Mo gave us an offensive lift," Tomjanovich said. "That was what he did for us a couple of years ago."

Steve Francis added 14 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for Houston before fouling out with 3:34 left. The Rockets saw a 20-point lead with 5 1/2 minutes remaining dwindle to six before holding off the Timberwolves down the stretch.

Houston is in seventh place in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota.

"It was real important," Francis said of the win. "This is a team that we're battling against to make some postseason noise. It's real important to play good against a team like Minnesota, who has been there."

Garnett contributed 25 points and 16 rebounds for his league-leading 28th double-double. But the Timberwolves shot just 36 percent (28-of-78).

"We should've beat that team," Gill said. "They have a lot of talent, but they're not as good as they can be. In the first half, we were terrible. We couldn't hit any shots."