Aaron Brooks had played just 15 minutes in his last six games and acknowledged he was a little shaky when he entered Houston's game against Minnesota late in the first quarter.
It didn't take him long to settle down.
Brooks scored a season-high 26 points to pick up the slack for the injured James Harden, and the Rockets beat the Timberwolves 112-101 on Saturday night.
"When your All-Star goes out it takes a collective group to get it done," Brooks said. "That's what we did — everybody. Dwight (Howard) gave up a little bit of himself in scoring, passed it to others and we got the job done."
Brooks, who entered the game averaging 2.8 points, had a big second quarter, making four 3-pointers and scoring 16 points. He finished with six 3-pointers. It was his most points since scoring 28 for the Rockets against Utah in April of 2010.
Coach Kevin McHale talked about the challenge of Brooks stepping in when he hadn't been getting a lot of playing time.
"It's very difficult," McHale said. "His second quarter was special. He really had it going. He was making shots. Aaron did a great job tonight."
The Rockets led throughout, and Omri Casspi, Jeremy Lin and Brooks made consecutive 3-pointers in a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter and extend the lead to 91-74.
Harden, who leads the Rockets with 24.2 points per game, sat out with a sore left foot. Lin started in his place and scored 19, but it was Brooks who shined.
"(Brooks) was amazing," Howard said. "Shot the ball well, played great defense ... (he) was a big reason why we won the game."
Kevin Love had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and Corey Brewer scored 22 for the Timberwolves.
"When you try to make runs they kept hitting 3s," Love said. "We showed fight, but in the end it's really tough when the first three shots of the fourth quarter are from 3 and they hit three in a row."
Brooks, who's in his second stint with the Rockets, is a crowd favorite and the home fans cheered wildly every time he entered the game. Brooks also had five assists, four rebounds and a steal.
"Well, I coached him, so I've seen him do that a lot," said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman, who coached Brooks in Houston from 2008-11. "It doesn't surprise me."
Patrick Beverley had 17 points and made a career-high five 3-pointers, and Terrence Jones added 18 points and had 10 rebounds for Houston. Howard had 11 points and led the team with 13 rebounds.
McHale loved the balanced scoring effort with Harden out, but was unhappy that his team had 23 turnovers to just 10 by the Timberwolves.
"I told our guys we have to play more efficiently and a little bit smarter," McHale said. "We've got to create more space for each other on the floor so we can attack."
The Rockets led 82-74 entering the fourth quarter.
The Timberwolves used a 15-4 spurt in the third quarter, fueled by three 3-pointers, to cut Houston's lead to 65-57. Love made a 3-pointer before a turnover by Chandler Parsons that led to a dunk by Brewer capped the run. An exasperated McHale put his hands on his head as he watched Brewer's dunk and quickly called a timeout.
McHale's short pep talk must have gotten Houston's attention. The Rockets responded with a 10-5 run to extend their lead to 75-62 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Rockets led by eight points late in the second quarter before using a 9-2 run thanks to three straight 3-pointers, including two by Brooks, to stretch the lead to 52-37.
Minnesota scored five quick points on a dunk by Kevin Martin and a 3-pointer from Brewer to close the gap. But Lin sunk a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Houston's lead to 55-42 at halftime.
NOTES: McHale said Harden visited a doctor on Saturday and they are going to change his treatment plan. He said Harden will likely miss Monday's game as well. ... Lin had a bump on his forehead and was holding ice on it after the game. It was unclear how he was injured and he wasn't available to reporters after the game because he was seeing a doctor. ... Also out for the Rockets on Saturday were Ronnie Brewer, who has a strained right calf, and Greg Smith, who has a sprained right knee. ... It was Howard's ninth double-double of the season. ... Ricky Rubio had eight assists for Minnesota.