for this game

Yao's late jumper seals Rockets' victory over T-Wolves

Dec 21, 2008 - 6:01 AM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Despite an admirable rally in the final minutes, the Minnesota Timberwolves' misery continued on Saturday night - this time courtesy of the Houston Rockets.

Tracy McGrady scored 23 points and Yao Ming added 18 - including a clutch jumper with 22 seconds left that essentially sealed the game - as the Rockets survived Minnesota's late surge for a 109-102 triumph.

"I thought we had a really bad period of time there in the fourth quarter and they got back in the game," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "We're fortunate to get the win but we've got to finish the game a lot better."

The Timberwolves pulled to within three as Randy Foye - who has struggled all season - staged an 8-0 run by himself, sandwiching a layup around a pair of 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 105-102. But Yao answered on the other end, connecting from 10 feet to provide a five-point cushion.

"I felt like, OK, my heart is back in my chest instead of up here," Yao said. "The game was getting so close. We had a 14-point lead early in the third quarter and still had a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter. But they really did not give up."

Foye misfired from the arc on the other end and a pair of free throws from Shane Battier sealed it.

"You've got to stick with what got you the lead," Battier said. "We got away from that. We started to play lax on defense, took some poor shots."

Foye finished with 24 points, while Al Jefferson registered a season-high 34 and 13 boards.

"He is very quick with a first step and his hands are very quick," said Yao, who guarded Jefferson for much of the night. "Also, we tried to play him straight, without much double team. We knew he was a go-to guy but we were more worried about their perimeter guys. I don't know, maybe next time we need to double-team him."

"You can't ask anymore from Al - Al played tremendous out there and Foye got it going in the fourth quarter," Minnesota coach Kevin McHale said. "I thought there were some positives. I thought the ball moved a lot better tonight, I know we got stopped a couple times tonight, but we've got to keep work on that trying to get the same things in mind, keeping the ball moving."

After a back-and-forth first half, the Rockets took control in the third quarter. With his team nursing a seven-point lead, McGrady buried a long jumper and Yao followed with back-to-back jumpers, extending Houston's edge to 66-53.

The advantage ballooned to as big as 18 later in the quarter, as McGrady connected from 3-point range and added a driving layup to push the Rockets' lead to 81-63. However, the Timberwolves gradually crawled back into it before falling just short.

"I think it's just a mental thing," McGrady said. "Mentally, we lose focus, stop doing the things that put us up. That's executing at both ends. I think we get a little too relaxed."

T-Wolves guard Mike Miller left the game in the first quarter with a sprained right ankle. Rashad McCants replaced Miller and took advantage of the opportunity, scoring 16 points.

Saturday's game was the second of four games in five nights for the Rockets. They get one day off before facing New Jersey on Monday night.