MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- If Minnesota and Houston meet in the playoffs, the Timberwolves would have a strong answer for 7-foot-6 Yao Ming: the double-team of 7-footers Kevin Garnett and Rasho Nesterovic.
"I'm not used to that," Yao said after being battered by the Minnesota duo Tuesday night.
Garnett had 23 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists while Nesterovic added 19 as the Wolves beat the Rockets 103-89.
Minnesota picked up some momentum heading into the All-Star break with its ninth straight home win and second overall after being thumped by 20 points at Houston on Friday.
The Wolves are in fifth place in the Western Conference standings, while Houston is clinging to the eighth spot with the L.A. Lakers three games behind the Rockets.
"These last 30 games are most important," Wolves guard Anthony Peeler said. "We need to finish the season strong."
After losing two straight to Houston, the Wolves earned a 2-2 split of the regular-season series against their Midwest Division foes.
"I always think it's important to stay aggressive before the break," Garnett said. "I told the guys yesterday and today to stay focused.
"The All-Star break begins Wednesday, not Tuesday."
Steve Francis led Houston with 31 points, but started losing his shooting touch down the stretch. The Houston point guard made two of seven shots in the fourth quarter and finished 11-of-21.
Yao, who had his 14th double-double Friday against the Wolves, scored 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting.
Nesterovic played solid defense against Yao and provided some timely baskets for the Timberwolves. Yao rarely got the ball down low, and when he did, the Wolves swarmed him.
"They used to do that to (Hakeem Olajuwon)," Rocket Cuttino Mobley said. "We haven't seen a double team like that all year.
"It was the fastest we've seen. As soon as he caught it, they were on him with two guys."
A free throw by James Posey pulled Houston to 77-75 with 10:20 to go. But Minnesota went on a decisive 20-8 run during which five different players scored. All five Minnesota starters scored in double figures.
The Rockets stayed close through most of the second half and stopped Minnesota from making any big runs before the fourth quarter.
Garnett scored 13 of his points in the second half. He had only three in the fourth quarter, but dished four assists, had one steal and blocked a shot.
"They used him to break down our defense," Yao said. "He had another great game tonight."
"What more can you say? He's the big ticket," Mobley said. "He gets 20 and 10 every night. That's impressive."
While Garnett, who'll make his sixth All-Star appearance this weekend, just missed his fourth triple-double season, he did notch his league-leading 39th double-double.
"K.G. was a monster again," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "No one else in the league is able to set it up, calm things down, contest the ball -- and he and Ben Wallace might be the two best defensive rebounders in the game."
Notes: Houston is 6-4 against Minnesota in its last 10 meetings. ... Garnett drew a loud ovation after winning the opening tip against Yao. The crowd cheered loudly again when the 6-foot-7 Wally Szczerbiak went up against the Rockets' center, chanting "WA-LLY! WA-LLY!" But the tip went out of bounds to the Rockets. ... Peeler started his second straight game in the absence of F Joe Smith (ankle). Peeler started at guard and Szczerbiak again was shifted to forward. ... Houston C Kelvin Cato went through pregame warmups, but sat out his second straight game with a hip flexor strain.
Griffin 3-14 1-2 8, Posey 3-7 2-3 9, Yao 4-7 4-4 12, Mobley 7-16 2-2 17, Francis 11-21 8-10 31, Collier 0-2 0-0 0, Norris 3-3 0-0 6, Mau.Taylor 3-7 0-0 6, Morris 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 34-78 17-21 89.
Szczerbiak 6-14 4-4 16, Garnett 10-15 3-5 23, Nesterovic 9-14 1-2 19, Peeler 5-5 0-0 10, Hudson 7-14 2-2 17, Gill 2-5 3-5 7, Jackson 1-2 2-4 4, Rakocevic 2-5 0-0 5, Trent 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 43-78 15-22 103.
Houston 21 24 22 22 -- 89
Minnesota 25 20 29 29 -- 103
3-Point Goals--Houston 4-19 (Francis 1-4, Posey 1-4, Mobley 1-5, Griffin 1-6), Minnesota 2-5 (Rakocevic 1-1, Hudson 1-2, Garnett 0-1, Szczerbiak 0-1). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--Houston 41 (Yao 10), Minnesota 49 (Garnett 11). Assists--Houston 16 (Francis 6), Minnesota 25 (Garnett 9). Total fouls--Houston 18, Minnesota 20. Technicals--Collier, Jackson, Rakocevic. A--15,333 (19,006).
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