The jinx is over.
The Rockets came in to Minnesota Wednesday night with an "OWNED BY KG AND TERRELL" sticker pasted firmly on their foreheads, but left as free men as the Rockets stunned the Timberwolves 89-83 in Minnesota.
The win ends a 6-game skid to the Wolves that goes back to 1999 -- it's also the third straight win for the Rockets and the 7th in their last 8 games.
Not a single one bigger than this one however. The Rockets made a big statement: The playoffs are coming, and we want in.
Maurice Taylor was a monster yet again, and went toe to toe with Kevin Garnett like he belonged among the power forwards elite. Taylor scored 21 points and grabbed 8 boards, and though KG had 23 and 15, Mo never shyed away from taking it on the Big Ticket nor did he fear the defensive challenge.
Hakeem Olajuwon added 13 points and 13 boards and the play of the game: a highlight reel, massiv swat of Terrell Brandon (16 points, just 2 assists) with 1:20 left and the Rockets nursing a 4-point lead. Brandon thought he had an easy layup and Hakeem came from the other side of the court and stamped his mark all over it.
Hakeem's defense may not get the headlines for this one, but it decided the game in the final minutes.
The bench was key for the Rockets: Walt Williams snapped out of a slump, hitting 5-8 shots for 12 points, Kelvin Cato played just 8 minutes, all in the second quarter, and was big with 6 points while Kenny Thomas grabbed 9 boards.
They needed every bit from Mo, Hakeem and the bench because the Rockets dynamic duo at guard were having terrible shooting nights. Steve Francis was just 4-17 from the field, though it didn't stop him from making big plays. 12 points, 12 assists and 7 boards.
Cuttino Mobley shot even worse.... hitting just 2-13 shots for 10 points. Mobley was not looking sharp out there at all, making a few "old Mobley" boneheaded plays, including back-to-back shotclock violations.
Wally Szczerbiak added 20 points and 8 boards for Minnesota.
Ex-Rocket Jim Peterson, who is the TV color guy for Minnesota Timberwolf games, filled in for the still under-the-weather Calvin Murphy.
The Rockets came out hot, hitting their first 5 shots to take an 11-6 lead, but they followed that up with 5 straight misses and the T-Wolves went on an 8-0 tear to lead 14-11.
The Rockets came back to tie it at 16, but Terrell Brandon, as usual, was too much, scoring 10 points in the period as the TWolves took a 26-21 lead after one. Hakeem led the Rockets with 6.
The Wolves kept the heat on in the second, grabbing a 31-23 lead but the the Rockets' bench emerged to completely turn this game around.
Kelvin Cato took a feed from Moochie and slammed it home something fierce, cutting the lead to 31-25, but it did more than that -- it sparked the Rockets to take off on an 18-2 run. Walt Williams was huge, nailing 4-5 shots for 10 points in the period, including a pair of huge trifectas while Cato hit 3-4 shots for 6 points.
Cato also had a gorgeous alleyoop slam off a feed from Francis with the shot clock winding down that was a monster shot in the arm for the team.
Rockets led 49-38 at half.
That disappeared QUICKLY in the third period. The Rockets came out ice cold while the Wolves were ready to get back in it. After Anthony Peeler nailed a three, Rudy T was forced to call timeout, clinging to a 2-point lead, 51-49.
After Mo slammed one in and nailed a jumper and the foul (missed the free throw), the Rockets led 57-51. When Cuttino Mobley hit his first field goal of the game, a triple, the Rockets led 60-53.
From there both teams traded buckets, ending with Mo Taylor draining an 8-foot jumper as the third quarter expired, giving the Rockets a 71-65 lead heading in to the final period.
After Mo Taylor made a nice power move to put the Rockets up 73-65, Garnett responded by taking Mo to the hole for a three-point play, whittling the lead down to 5.
The Rockets slipped there. Cuttino Mobley made two boneheaded plays in a row, both times resulting in 24-second violations, and the Wolves scored both times as a result, cutting it to 75-72.
After Hakeem made a layup after a Francis penetration feed, then Francis nailed 1-2 free throws, the Rockets led 78-73 with just over 6 minutes to go.
When Walt Williams nailed a huge, hanging baseline jumper, the lead was 80-75 with just over 5 minutes to go. After forcing a Minnesota miss, Kenny Thomas missed a three but Steve Francis outjumped Kevin Garnett and outfought him for the board with both players holding it.
On the next possession Francis hit a cold-blooded shot, putting the Rockets up 82-75 with 3 and a half minutes to go.
After Garnett scored, Mo Taylor grabbed a huge offensive board off an Hakeem miss and put it back in, making it 84-77.
The Wolves countered quickly with a bucket, and after Hakeem made a nice defensive play on Szczerbiak, forcing a miss on a drive, Mobley made an awful pass that was picked by Garnett and resulted in a Szczerbiak layup. 84-81 Rockets, 1:40 left.
Mo Taylor was fouled with 1:25 left, but made just 1-2 free throws. That set up the play of the game.
Terrell Brandon drove and beat his man and had a wide open layup, but from the other side like a cat came Hakeem Olajuwon who rejected a point blank layup for Brandon. Szczerbiak lost the loose ball out of bounds and it was a HUGE PLAY for the Rockets.
Mobley made a pair of free throws with 1:10 left and after a Peeler miss from long range, Mo Taylor snared a big board, made both free throws after getting fouled and the Rockets were on their way to a huge victory.