Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/21

Game 1: Saturday, December 21st
Game 2: Tuesday, January 7th
Game 3: Friday, January 31st
Game 4: Tuesday, February 4th

    7:30 PM ET, January 31, 2003

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIN 27 24 23 27101
    HOU 25 33 32 31121

    Top Performers

    Min: T. Hudson 23 Pts, 2 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 Stl

    Hou: Y. Ming 24 Pts, 13 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

    Yao with 14th double-double of the season

    HOUSTON (AP) -- The standings will show one more victory for the Houston Rockets.

     Steve Francis

    Coach Rudy Tomjanovich saw much more.

    Steve Francis scored 27 points and Yao Ming had his 14th double-double of the season as the Houston Rockets shot a season-high 58.1 percent and beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-101 Friday night.

    "It's worth more than one win," Tomjanovich said. "Emotionally, it was a big performance for us."

    Houston's point total also was a season high, 10 more than the Rockets had in a 111-104 victory over Golden State on Nov. 9. Houston had lost five of its previous six games, including a 104-81 loss to Dallas Wednesday night.

    "This is a big comeback right when we needed it," Tomjanovich said. "We were playing a quality team that's been playing really well. We kept our poise. This is our best offensive showing, our best percentage shooting and the most assists."

    Yao had 24 points and 13 rebounds and three blocks. Cuttino Mobley scored 22 points for the Rockets. Houston is 10-2 this season when both Mobley and Francis score 20 or more points.

    "This should be an encouragement for our team," Yao said. "Everybody was passing today so everybody had open opportunities."

    Troy Hudson led the Timberwolves with 23 points and Wally Szczerbiak added 20. Kevin Garnett finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

    Houston's season high 30 assists helped the victory.

    "We lacked energy, focus and concentration," Hudson said. "We played a great game last night, but we had a lack of energy from the start. We had a lot of good opportunities off of the pick and roll, just like last night, but tonight things didn't work out."

    The Timberwolves lost to Dallas 112-109 Thursday night.

    "I came in here and I could see this coming," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "We have been resilient all year but Houston just dominated us. It's as simple as that. We tried to do whatever we could, but we didn't have the energy and spark."

    The Rockets held a 58-51 halftime lead, spiced by a slam dunk by Yao at the buzzer on a pass from Francis. Houston then launched a 18-6 run to start the third quarter, taking a 76-57 lead with 6:09 left in the quarter.

    The Rockets trailed 27-25 at the first quarter break but they went on a 19-5 run that gave them a 44-32 lead with 7:36 left in the period.

    The Timberwolves had only one basket over the first 6:38 of the second quarter before a 3-point basket by Anthony Peeler started a mild Minnesota rally led by Szczerbiak, who had 10 points in the closing minutes of the half.

    "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 have to take positives out of every game but the lack of consistency was the key."

    The Timberwolves got within five points at 56-51, but the Rockets closed the half on a positive note when Francis fed the ball to Yao for a slam at the buzzer.

    "We knew how much this game meant for us, for our fans and for our coaches and even the league standings," Francis said. "Scoring-wise I guess this was our best game. On offense, we did a good job."

    Game notes
    The Timberwolves have an 8-21 record at Compaq Center. ... Cuttino Mobley has hit 55 of his last 60 free throws. ... Minnesota is 2-12 on the road this season against opponents with winning records. ... Rockets C Kelvin Cato suffered a right hip flexor strain and had to leave the game in the second quarter. He did not return. ... Wolves F Joe Smith sprained his ankle in the second half and did not return. ... Houston is 10-1 when it scores 100 points.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 101 121
    FGM-FGA 35-79 (.443) 50-86 (.581)
    3PM-3PA 3-7 (.429) 5-15 (.333)
    FTM-FTA 28-32 (.875) 16-19 (.842)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 13-37 11-37
    Assists 18 30
    Turnovers 15 14
    Steals 6 9
    Blocks 0 6
    Fast Break Points 3 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (3/0) 18 (3/0)

    Top Performers

    Troy Hudson Hudson
    Points: 23
    Reb: 2
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 3
    Blk: 0
    Yao Ming Ming
    Points: 24
    Reb: 13
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 3