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Rockets blast Timberwolves

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HOUSTON — On a night when Houston guard Aaron Brooks turned back to the clock to glory days gone by, he proved the best candidate to articulate just how critical accurate 3-point shooting is to the Rockets’ collective hopes for sustaining their peak-efficiency offense.

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Brooks drained 6-of-7 3-pointers and scored a season-high 26 points off the bench as the Rockets drilled 17 3-pointers in their 112-101 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

The Rockets (9-5) relied on a balanced scoring attack to offset another fabulous performance from Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, whose 27 points and 15 rebounds paced a resilient effort bolstered by the Rockets’ miscues. Minnesota scored 37 points off 24 Houston turnovers.

Houston nailed 15 3-pointers in a 123-117 overtime loss at Philadelphia on Nov. 13. Brooks was the catalyst in setting a new standard and combined with guard Patrick Beverley, who chipped in 17 points on 5-of-8 3s. Houston forward Terrence Jones (18 points, 10 rebounds) and center Dwight Howard (11 points, 13 boards) added double-doubles.

The Rockets entered Saturday night leading the NBA in 3-point attempts per game (26.8) and ranked fourth in treys made per games (9.6). However, their 35.7 percentage from deep was just 13th. They finished 17 of 41 against Minnesota, a robust total more to their liking.

“Everybody here can shoot 3s and we’ve all done it in our career,” Brooks said. “That’s what this team was built for, to shoot around Dwight.

“Once you see one go in, you get that momentum and keep on running. And then it starts happening.”

Forward Corey Brewer scored 22 points for the Timberwolves (8-7). Guard Kevin Martin had 19 points, but the Timberwolves’ bench produced just 12 points, less than half of Brooks’ game-breaking total.

After Love paired 15 points with seven rebounds in the third quarter, Houston levied the knockout blow by opening the fourth quarter with successive treys from Omri Casspi, Jeremy Lin (19 points) and Brooks.

“We thought we defended them well in close, but as far as them shooting 17 of 31 from the 3-point line, it’s tough to win,” Love said. “We showed fight, but in the end it’s really tough when the first three shots of the fourth quarter are from three and they hit three in a row.”

With leading scorer James Harden sidelined by a sore left foot, the Rockets needed someone to help fill the void created by his absence. Brooks, with one double-digit scoring game on his ledger thus season and a total of four points in his last six appearances, stepped forward.

Brooks poured in 16 points in the second quarter, hitting 4-of-5 shots from deep. His blitz started with a 3 with 9:19 left in the quarter and, after Minnesota cut the 12-point deficit in half when guard Alexey Shved capped a possession that included four offensive rebounds with a layup, Brooks sandwiched a layup and another 3 around a Howard putback.

“Well, I coached him so I’ve seen him do that a lot,” said Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman, who coached Houston for four seasons. “It doesn’t surprise me.”

The Rockets led wire to wire and by as many as 19 points.

By the time Brooks nailed two additional 3-pointers, the Rockets had rebuilt their double-digit lead to 49-37. Houston closed the quarter with its last four baskets coming from behind the arc and led 55-42 at intermission. Their scorching shooting was a byproduct of their unselfishness, and by game’s ends Houston had 26 assists on 41 baskets.

“We’ve got so many guys that can score the ball that on any given night someone can go off,” said Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, who had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. “It makes us much harder to guard when we share the basketball and have everybody involved.”

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