MINNEAPOLIS – Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 12 rebounds and led a strong defensive effort by Minnesota against Houston and Yao Ming on Wednesday night, guiding the Timberwolves to a 90-84 victory.

Yao had 14 points and eight rebounds, shooting only 5-for-19 from the field. Tracy McGrady didn’t do much for the Rockets, either, finishing with 14 points on 5-for-21 shooting. He did have 10 rebounds and seven assists, however.

Making up for last week’s 82-75 loss at Houston, Minnesota won a remarkably even game by refusing to let Yao dominate underneath as he has so many times this season – with Garnett, Mark Blount and Craig Smith all chipping in after Mark Madsen left with an early injury.

It was most obvious this wasn’t Yao’s night in the fourth quarter, when he was inexplicably called for a technical foul – apparently for hanging too long on the rim – following a dunk in Eddie Griffin’s face.

Later, he swatted Troy Hudson’s layup and was whistled for goaltending to give the Timberwolves the biggest lead by either team all game, 85-77 with 5:21 left.

About a minute after that, Garnett stuffed a short shot by Yao, who grabbed the rebound but simply missed the putback and returned to the defensive end wearing a frustrated expression. Garnett jumped for joy at midcourt on the way back, pumping his fist in the air.

Rafer Alston’s 3-pointer cut the Minnesota lead to 87-84, and after a miss by Marko Jaric, the Rockets had a chance to tie with less than 30 seconds remaining. But Alston’s 3-pointer fell short, Garnett got the rebound and made two foul shots to seal it.

AP-ES-12-06-06 2228EST


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