HOUSTON, Nov. 11 (Ticker) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves took advantage of Tracy McGrady's absence to record their first road win of the season.

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Kevin Garnett scored 20 points and Sam Cassell added 18 and both made some big shots down the stretch as the Timberwolves posted a 96-91 victory over the Houston Rockets.

Garnett, who also had 17 rebounds and nine assists, struggled offensively for much of the game but came alive when it counted, scoring seven points in the fourth quarter. After Cassell hit a jumper to give Minnesota a 90-87 edge, Garnett drained a 14-footer for a five-point lead with 1:40 left.

The Rockets, who had won three in a row, responded with four straight points from Yao Ming. But again Garnett responded, grabbing an offensive rebound after Cassell missed a jumper and just beating the shot clock with a 19-footer with 8.3 seconds left.

"We were just trying to bounce back from the Pacers loss" said Garnett, whose club lost 102-101 to Indiana on Tuesday. "I wasn't happy with that loss at all. We move the ball well. They did a lot of fronting, and we moved the ball around and came out focused."

"We can make shots," said Cassell, who spent his first three seasons with Houston. "We're a shot-making ballclub. But the defense for us was excellent tonight."

Jim Jackson was called for an illegal screen as the Rockets tried to in-bound the ball and Wally Szczerbiak made a pair of free throws to cap the scoring.

"I thought it was a terrible call, nothing more, nothing less," Jackson said. "That didn't lose us the game, but it didn't give us a chance to shoot either. Maybe he (the referee) saw something we didn't see. He said that I tried to set a pick, but I was the shooter."

"We played 36 hard minutes, real hard minutes tonight, and that is not good enough," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

Van Gundy was alluding to a poor first quarter in which Minnesota built a 35-24 lead. The Timberwolves made seven straight shots, including a 3-pointer by former Rocket Eddie Griffin, in a 19-7 run late in the period.

"This is a first-quarter league, not a fourth-quarter league," said Van Gundy, whose team has trailed at halftime and after three quarters in four of its six games. "We don't have that down yet.

"Down in Detroit, down in Toronto, down tonight; we were able to escape with the win the other night against Memphis with the same start as tonight but we weren't able to overcome it (against Minnesota)."

Griffin struggled on and off the court in two seasons with the Rockets before being released in 2003. He was logging his first significant minutes of the season after a three-game suspension and responded with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Griffin's second 3-pointer with less than five minutes left snapped an 83-83 tie and gave Minnesota the lead for good.

"He doesn't say much but he is a (heck) of a player," Garnett said. "He is making the most of his opportunities and I just told him to stay aggressive."

"Eddie played extremely well," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "He made some big shots and had some big blocks. He did a great job fronting Yao when (Michael Olowokandi) was in foul trouble."

Griffin said the Houston fans' boos didn't bother him.

"I did expect it," he said. "It just made me play harder. It didn't bother me. I knew as soon as they announced my name, I'd be booed. It's nice to show (Rockets fans) I can play."

McGrady, who had scored 53 points over the first two games of the Rockets' winning streak, left Tuesday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies with strains in his right hip and groin and was in street clothes vs. Minnesota.

Yao picked up the slack with 25 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Maurice Taylor added 19 for Houston, which was outrebounded, 41-33.

"We knew without Tracy McGrady, (Yao) would get twice as many touches," Saunders said. "He played well."

The Rockets cut the Timberwolves' double-digit lead to one on five occasions before taking a 72-71 edge with 10:39 left on a layup by Ryan Bowen. The teams exchanged leads three more times before Griffin's big shot set the tone down the stretch.