HOUSTON, Jan. 31 (Ticker) --
The Houston Rockets hope this one will
provide the spark they have been looking for the past two weeks.
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scored 27 points and rookie Yao Ming
added 24 as
the hot-shooting Rockets cruised to a 121-101 victory over the
Houston recorded season highs in points and shooting percentage
as it won for just the second time in seven games since beating
the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime two weeks ago.
"We talked about putting two halves together," Houston coach
Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We've been miserable (losing five of the
last six). We kept our poise."
The Rockets shot 58 percent (50-of-86) from the field. The trio
of Francis (12-of-15), Yao (8-of-12) and Cuttino Mobley
(8-of-14) were nearly unstoppable, combining to make 28-of-41
shots. Mobley scored 22 points.
"We did a good job of what we've been trying to do for a while,
moving the ball finding the open guy," Francis said. "We know
how much this game meant to us."
The Rockets were unselfish throughout, assisting on 60 percent
of their baskets.
"We had 30 assists," Yao said through an interpreter. "It was
very fluid. I think this is encouraging for our entire team.
Everybody was passing, so everybody had open opportunities."
scored 23 points and Wally Szczerbiak
added 20 for
Minnesota, which has dropped consecutive games for the first
time since January 4-7. The Timberwolves still have won 10 of
their last 14 contests.
Minnesota forward Joe Smith
suffered a sprained right ankle when
he dunked late in the third quarter. He had to be helped to
the locker room and did not return.
"I could see this coming," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.
"We have been resilient all year, but Houston just dominated us.
We tried to do whatever we could, but we didn't have the energy
or the spark, and our play really suffered."
All-Star Kevin Garnett
was held to 14 points for the
Timberwolves, making just 6-of-15 shots.
"It's not the game we wanted to play." Garnett said. "We just
couldn't make our shots and Houston got a lot of easy baskets.
We came in here and got our butts kicked."
"Garnett's a great player," Francis added. "I think he was just
a little tired after a tough game last night in Dallas. The
bleeding still isn't stopped. We're still down."
The Rockets took control early in the second quarter, using a
17-5 burst to open a 44-32 lead on Mobley's alley-oop layup with
7:36 left in the first half. Maurice Taylor
scored eight of his
18 points during the run.
"They look for me to score," Taylor said. "Rudy has confidence
in me. Every good team has a guy coming off the bench applying
pressure to the other team."
The Timberwolves closed to 58-51 at the half, but the Rockets
spurted again early in the third quarter, building a 74-57
cushion on James Posey
's 3-pointer with 8:18 left in the period.
Minnesota led by as many as 23 in the final minute.
Houston held Minnesota to 44 percent shooting (35-of-79) and
outscored outscored the Timberwolves in the paint, 62-40.
"It was a big comeback when we needed it," Tomjanovich said. "We
were playing a quality team that has really been playing good.
It was our best offensive showing of the year."