Timberwolves 82, Rockets 79

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HOUSTON (AP) – Marcus Banks hit the go-ahead jumper in the fourth quarter and scored 15 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves snapped a 14-game road losing streak with an 82-79 over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

Playing without leading scorers Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis, the Timberwolves won away from home for the first time since a 103-101 victory at Phoenix on Feb. 6. They overcame an 18-point first-half deficit to hand the Rockets their sixth loss in six games when All-Stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming both sit out with injuries.

Yao, who missed 21 games after toe surgery in December, is now sidelined 4-6 months after breaking his left foot in Monday’s loss to Utah. McGrady has missed 31 games this season, including the last 17, with back problems.

The Rockets led 71-61 early in the fourth quarter, then went the last 9 minutes without a field goal to let it slip away.

Minnesota pulled to within six three times in the final quarter before driving layups by Bracey Wright and Banks cut the deficit to two.

Keith Bogans sank two free throws with 4:52 to go, but Banks sank a 3-pointer a minute later to trim the deficit to one. He added a 20-foot jumper with 1:27 left to give the Timberwolves a 78-77 lead.

The Rockets had two chances for the game-winner in the final minute, but Eddie Griffin blocked Bogans’ layup try and Rafer Alston missed a long jumper on the other.

Trenton Hassell and Wright each sank two free throws in the closing seconds.

Alston had 17 and Juwan Howard added 15 for the Rockets, who led 41-23 after Chuck Hayes’ layup in the second quarter.

Mark Blount had 16, Banks had 15 and Wright and Justin Reed added 13 apiece for the Timberwolves, who played without Garnett (knee tendinitis), Davis (groin), guard Anthony Carter (sore foot) and rookie Rashad McCants (sprained ankle).

Howard was about the closest player resembling a “star” on either side and he got hurt three minutes into the game when Blount blocked his driving layup. Howard came down holding his right shoulder and went to the bench before returning in the second quarter.

Without any top scorers, the game was predictably ugly, as the patchwork teams missed 18 of their first 20 shots.

The Rockets controlled the boards, though, and nudged the lead into double digits as the Timberwolves continued to shoot poorly. Houston led by 10 at the half and stayed comfortably ahead in the third quarter.

The Timberwolves came back, though, and won for just the second time in six games.

Notes: The star-free game drew a decent crowd, announced as 16,499. … Jon Barry, waived by the Rockets in March 1, did color commentary on the local television broadcast. Barry appeared in 20 games this season and sat out most of January and February with calf and foot injuries. … Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson was showing around new assistant GM Daryl Morey before the game. Morey, hired on April 3, previously worked as the Boston Celtics’ senior vice president of operations and will succeed Dawson after next season.

AP-ES-04-12-06 2319EDT

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