Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 11/3

Game 1: Saturday, November 3rd
Game 2: Saturday, December 8th
Game 3: Thursday, February 21st
Game 4: Wednesday, March 13th

    Coverage: KTXH

    7:00 PM ET, March 13, 2002

    Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 23 23 20 3096
    MIN 24 17 31 2395

    Top Performers

    Hou: S. Francis 21 Pts, 6 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Blk

    Min: C. Billups 23 Pts, 5 Reb, 7 Ast

    Rockets score last eight points to tame Wolves

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Houston Rockets had two big things going for them down the stretch of their 96-95 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

    Steve Francis

    Steve Francis and the Rockets stretched Minnesota's skid to five games.

    One, strong defense. Two, a sloppy Wolves offense.

    Minnesota committed 18 turnovers, including four in the final minutes, and Steve Francis capped a 19-7 run by making the game-winning free-throw with 9.7 seconds left, sending the Wolves to their fifth straight defeat.

    "I ain't ever seen (the Wolves') faces look the way they did tonight," Francis said. "They looked like they didn't want the ball."

    Or the win. The Wolves held a late lead but suffered a total meltdown down the stretch.

    After stealing an inbounds pass, Kenny Thomas hit two free throws with 1:01 remaining to make it 95-92. Then, Kevin Garnett's pass to Chauncey Billups sailed out of bounds.

    Eddie Griffin made it 95-95 on a 3-pointer with 44.4 seconds left, and Thomas stripped Garnett under the basket.

    "I didn't know if he was going to turn with the ball up or turn with the ball down," Thomas said of the play. "I just had my hand in there and swiped down on it."

    Garnett fouled Francis on a drive, and Francis hit his second free throw after missing the first.

    The Wolves had one last chance, but Wally Szczerbiak overthrew Garnett, who tipped the errant pass to Anthony Peeler, who overthrew Szczerbiak for a backcourt violation.

    "We turned it around on defense. Defense was the key to everything when we got down," Thomas said.

    Cuttino Mobley added 20 points for the Rockets and Thomas had 14.

    Chauncey Billups led the Wolves with 23 points. Szczerbiak added 18 points and Garnett had 17 and 15 rebounds. But Minnesota gave up 20 points on its 18 turnovers.

    "When it rains, it pours. That's all I can really say," Billups said. "Good teams don't turn the ball over in a terrible stretch like we had."

    The Rockets won their third in a row. With a 25-39 record and the playoffs out of reach, Francis said his team still has a lot of pride to play for.

    "It's been a trait of us all season, that we never give up. That we always want to fight to the last horn. Right now it doesn't look like we're playing for anything, but I think we're playing for pride among ourselves and trying to better our team for the future."

    The Wolves started out flat and trailed 46-41 at halftime but rallied after Gary Trent was ejected for arguing with the officials.

    With Houston leading 46-43, referee Mike Callahan called Trent for a flagrant foul on Thomas as he drove to the basket. Trent was subsequently hit with a technical foul for arguing with Callahan.

    Before leaving the floor, Trent picked up a notebook from the scoring table and threw it on the floor, scattering papers on the court.

    Trent, who normally comes off the bench, started in place of Joe Smith as coach Flip Saunders shook up the lineup.

    Billups responded in the next three minutes with a three-point play, a jump shot, two free throws and a 3-pointer to give Minnesota a 54-53 lead, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

    Mobley hit a 3-pointer with 10:32 left to pull Houston to 76-73 before Anthony Peeler's layup capped a 12-4 run to make it 88-77.

    Game notes

    Rockets F Kevin Willis didn't make the trip to Minnesota. Willis was placed on the injured list Tuesday with a left wrist sprain. ... Rudy Tomjanovich coached his 800th game with Houston. ... Minnesota came into the game averaging 18.8 turnovers during its four-game slump.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 96 95
    FGM-FGA 37-82 (.451) 34-73 (.466)
    3PM-3PA 6-22 (.273) 4-9 (.444)
    FTM-FTA 16-23 (.696) 23-29 (.793)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 6-33 7-41
    Assists 20 21
    Turnovers 12 18
    Steals 6 3
    Blocks 8 1
    Fast Break Points 1 6
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (2/1) 22 (2/1)

    Top Performers

    Steve Francis Francis
    Points: 21
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1
    Chauncey Billups Billups
    Points: 23
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0