for this game

Rockets roar past T-Wolves with second-half rally

Feb 8, 2009 - 5:31 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Were professional basketball games merely 33 minutes long, the Minnesota Timberwolves no doubt would have come away victoriously Saturday night.

As it happened, they fell apart for the final 15, relinquishing control as the Houston Rockets stormed back for a 107-90 victory. For the better part of three quarters, such a lopsided result wouldn't have seemed possible.

With Al Jefferson matching All-Star Yao Ming inside - and, in fact, winning that battle - the Timberwolves looked well on their way to an upset victory on the road against a likely playoff team. But Minnesota self-destructed thereafter. Rafer Alston knocked down three straight jumpers - including two from the arc - late in the third quarter to turn a one-point deficit into a seven-point lead.

"They made shots and we missed ours," T-Wolves coach Kevin McHale said. "We settled for jump shots and we didn't get into the paint. We went through a period when we couldn't make any shots. We weren't able to sustain any offensive or defensive pressure in the second half."

In the final session, the Rockets just piled on. Shane Battier opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, Carl Landry added a couple of buckets and Tracy McGrady buried two long jumpers - one just inside the arc, one just outside - to open up a 92-75 advantage.

"We ran the ball up tonight, got more quick hitting plays," Alston said. "I guess we were a little embarrassed (after the first quarter). They were carving us up. We gave them everything."

Yao's 30-point, six-rebound effort was dwarfed by Jefferson's 36 and 22, but the former got all the help he needed down the stretch as the Rockets won for the third time in four games. Alston scored 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting and McGrady added 15.

Jefferson, who is in the league's top-10 in both scoring and rebounding, had his way with his All-Star counterpart inside for much of the night.

"I just played my best. That's all I could," Jefferson said. "We were moving the ball and attacking them in the first half. Then we got away from it. I attacked all I could. I knew I had an advantage with Yao. I wanted to get him on the move and I was able to him my jumpers."

By the end of the first quarter, he already has 17 points and eight boards. He scored three buckets and Randy Foye added a pair of 3-pointers during a 16-0 run early in the first quarter.

Jefferson scored Minnesota's final 11 points of the period. He carried the team throughout as his teammates struggled from the floor, but he couldn't take them the whole way.

"(Assistant coach Jack Sikma told me) we should let (Jefferson) score until he tires himself out," Houston head coach Rick Adelman said. "Yao's playing a guy you're surprised is not on the All-Star team. (Yao's) got to keep playing him and make him work on the other end, which he did in the second half."

After snapping a 62-62 tie with a layup and hitting Ryan Gomes for another lay-in - which Gomes converted into a three-point play - late in the third, the momentum shifted and the wheels fell off quickly.

"Rafer started knocking down threes and it changed the complexion of the game," Foye said. "We were in there, but we have to learn to finish off games strong."

Foye was just 3-of-15 from the floor for the Timberwolves, who shot 40 percent (35-of-88) overall. Rookie forward Kevin Love, getting his second start in a row, was just 1-of-7 for four points and nine boards.

Minnesota has dropped five of six.

"We missed some shots and we let up at the end," Love said. "It was a tough game."