- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

HOUSTON (AP) - Ron Artest scored 20 points, Aaron Brooks and Von Wafer added 13 apiece and the Houston Rockets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-88 Friday night.

Yao Ming scored 14 points, but missed 10 of his 16 shots. He also had eight rebounds before leaving for good late in the third quarter. The Rockets had the game in hand by then, stretching their lead to 24 earlier in the quarter.

Craig Smith scored 19 and Kevin Love had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who’ve lost 16 of 19 since Al Jefferson’s season-ending knee injury on Feb. 8. Jefferson scored over 30 points in Minnesota’s first two games against the Rockets this season.

The Rockets beat the Timberwolves for the eighth straight time and needed this win with road games against San Antonio and Utah coming up in the next four days. Houston entered Friday’s game in third place overall in the Western Conference.

The Timberwolves have lost six straight road games and only stayed close in this one for a half.

Jason Collins, averaging 1.5 points, scored seven early points and did a good job defending Yao, who started 1-for-9 from the field. But Minnesota missed 13 of its first 19 shots and Brooks’ second 3-pointer put the Rockets ahead 20-14.

Kyle Lowry drove for a layup before Brent Barry and Wafer hit 3-pointers in the first minute of the second quarter to stretch Houston’s lead to 30-16.

Yao scored only four points in the first half on 2-for-10 shooting. But the Rockets led 48-37 at the break after going 5-for-11 from 3-point range and holding the Timberwolves to 38.5 percent shooting.

The Rockets started the third quarter with a 14-3 run to go up 62-40. Yao only contributed four points during the decisive spurt.

Minnesota scored the next nine points, finished by Sebastian Telfair’s straight-on 3-pointer with 6:59 left in the quarter. Artest scored seven points over the next minute to push Houston’s lead back to 20.

Yao checked out of the game with 31.5 seconds left in the third quarter. Artest scored 13 in the quarter and the Rockets led 83-66.

The Timberwolves never made a serious challenge in the fourth quarter, allowing Yao to stay on the bench and rest.

Notes:@ G James White made his Rockets’ debut with 3:42 left in the game. The Rockets signed White from the developmental league on March 3 and offered him a second 10-day contract on March 13. White hit a 3-pointer and scored five points. … The Rockets are 16-1 at home this season when they reach 100 points. … The Timberwolves have lost 22 of their last 26.

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