for this game

Brooks leads Rockets as they pull away in second half

Mar 2, 2009 - 3:44 AM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The scare lasted for about 2 1/2 quarters. After that, it was back to business as usual for the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets overcame a sluggish first half, withstanding the pesky Minnesota Timberwolves to run away with Sunday's 105-94 victory - their seventh in eight games.

What began as a battle simply to stay afloat looked effortless by the time the end of the third quarter rolled around, as Houston's ball movement and play-making defense were too much for Minnesota to handle.

"I'm just pleased with the way our guys came out and played tonight after a disappointment last night, especially in the third quarter," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We really controlled the game in the third quarter and took it right to the end."

The two clubs were dead even as late as five minutes into the third after Jason Collins' 16-footer tied the game at 64-64.

But within a few short minutes, the game was suddenly fully in Houston's control. Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola provided a bit of breathing room with four free throws before Ron Artest provided the big moment with a 3-pointer, extending the lead to seven.

"We just stayed with it," Artest said. "(Minnesota) was hitting shots, they were hungry and they have good players on their team. You can't win a game in the first half and we stayed with it."

Brooks - who has taken over running the offense for the recently traded Rafer Alston - found Yao Ming and Artest for easy layups on consecutive possessions to push the Rockets' advantage into double digits. A minute later, Scola found a lane into the paint and finished strong, then pulled back from 18 feet and buried one.

Brooks put the finishing touch on a 17-0 run with a long jumper, opening up an 81-64 lead for the Rockets.

"We just stepped up, we took it personal," Rockets forward Carl Landry said. "We locked down and kept them from getting easy buckets and penetrating the middle. That's what we need if want to be a great team."

Despite a spirited effort by the T-Wolves to stay in contention, they simply didn't have the firepower to keep up. Artest - who now has nine 3-pointers over his last two contests - kicked off the fourth quarter with a three and Houston rolled from there.

"They were really attacking the paint on us, so they were shooting over 60 percent after one," Adelman said. "We just talked about whichever team was going to maintain the defensive intensity and continue to execute, you're going to open the game up."

Offense seemed to come easy for the Rockets for the length of the second half and they shot 53 percent (40-of-77) from the field on the night. Brooks had his best night since taking over at the point, finishing with 22 points and 10 assists for just his second career double-double.

"I feel comfortable," Brooks said. "I can spot up and shoot some shots. I got some good looks."

Artest led the way with 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting and Yao added 17, 11 boards and six blocks for the Rockets, who are grappling for position in the Western Conference playoff race with a host of other teams. They continue to surge without the services of star swingman Tracy McGrady, who is out for the season with a knee injury that necessitated microfracture surgery.

The team is now 7-1 since he went down for good.

"I'm confident about this ballclub and I'm confident in what we can do, but we definitely have much more work ahead," Artest said.

Randy Foye paced Minnesota with 24 points and Craig Smith added 20 off the bench.