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Posted Dec 6 2006 1:20AM
While the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets are two of the NBA's best defensive teams, they have two of the worst offenses. Only Houston, however, has managed to thrive.
The teams meet for the second time in eight days on Wednesday at the Target Center.
The Rockets (12-5) have won six of their last seven games, including a 118-90 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. The 118 points were the most for Houston in a home game since Feb. 15, 2005, in a 123-93 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Houston entered Tuesday averaging just 92.1 points per game - second-lowest in the NBA - and has won primarily thanks to the league's best defense, which is giving up just 87.8 points per game. No other NBA club is allowing an average of fewer than 92.
Meanwhile, Minnesota has the third-ranked defense in the NBA, holding opponents to 92.9 poins per game. The Timberwolves are scoring even less, though, with their 92.3 average ranking 29th among the league's 30 teams.
The Rockets showed prowess on both ends of the court Tuesday, jumping out to a 15-point lead after the first quarter, a 21-point lead at the break and a 25-point advantage heading into the final quarter.
Tracy McGrady, who suffered a concussion in Saturday's 81-63 victory over Cleveland, had 31 points and seven assists before sitting out most of the fourth quarter. Yao Ming joined him after scoring 27 points and adding eight rebounds.
``This is my job, man,'' Yao said. ``They put single coverage on me. So all I had to do was catch the ball and go.''
Yao scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Rockets' 82-75 win over Minnesota (7-9) Nov. 28 at Houston.
``He's a beast down low,'' Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. ``He's so big and strong that you can't do much with him. He's getting that meanness, that toughness down there. If he's going to be a mean guy, he can be dangerous.''
Unlike Houston, the Timberwolves (7-9) haven't been able to overcome their offensive problems to play winning basketball.
Minnesota snapped a three-game losing streak with a 95-84 win over the 76ers on Sunday. Ricky Davis scored 22 points - 14 in the fourth quarter - and Mike James added another 20 for the Timberwolves.
Minnesota committed 24 turnovers, but also shot 51.9 percent from the field and outscored Philadelphia 27-19 in the final quarter.
``We knew that come the fourth quarter we wanted to make a bigger push and try to take the lead and just be aggressive,'' said Kevin Garnett, who recorded 15 points and 14 rebounds for his 14th double-double in 16 games this season. ``We had too many turnovers ... and you can't win like that, but we found a way to squeak it out. Our defense is ahead of our offense right now.''
The Rockets have won four of their last five visits to the Target Center.
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