HOUSTON (AP)—Ricky Davis played for four teams in his first seven NBA seasons, but always had an eye on Minnesota.
He’s finally joined the Timberwolves and after one game, he seems like a perfect fit.
The day after he was traded from Boston in a seven-player swap, Davis scored 26 points, grabbed a key rebound and sank two clutch free throws to lead the Wolves to a 96-92 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
“It has been tough saying goodbye to everyone,” Davis said, “but this is a great opportunity for me.”
Davis hit 10 of 18 shots, the last one a jumper from the wing with 1:08 left that put Minnesota up 92-88.
He showed no ill effects from a hectic day, which included a flight from Boston to Houston, a physical and a hasty hour glancing at Minnesota’s playbook.
“They made it really simple for me because my brain hasn’t been working too well,” Davis said. “They just set regular screens and the plays they did call for me, the guys walked me through them.”
Davis made big plays at the defensive end, too, after Stromile Swift sank two free throws with 59.8 seconds left.
Marko Jaric missed, and Tracy McGrady got the ball at the other end. But with Davis guarding him tightly, McGrady missed an off-balance shot. Kevin Garnett rebounded and split two free throws with 14.4 seconds left to make it 93-90.
David Wesley missed a 3-pointer and Davis grabbed the rebound. He sank two free throws with 8.1 seconds left to help his new squad win for just the second time in six games.
“I didn’t have jitters. I was about as comfortable as you can be,” Davis said. “I’ve been wanting to play here for a long time.”
Minnesota tried to acquire Davis from Cleveland in 2002, but the Cavaliers matched the Timberwolves’ offer. Cleveland later traded him to Boston.
Davis is happy things finally worked out.
“I’ve wanted to be here for the last five years,” Davis said. “(Minnesota vice president of operations) Kevin McHale has been working to get me and I hope to pay him back for his confidence in me.”
McGrady, who played the first half with a facemask to protect his bruised nose, scored 19 for Houston. Swift, sidelined the last nine games with an eye infection, also had 19.
Garnett scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Minnesota, who had lost each of their last two games by at least 20 points.
The 19-21 start prompted Thursday’s trade, which brought Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed and two conditional second-round draft picks to Minnesota. Blount was the only other one of the four who played, scoring four points.
Garnett liked what he saw from Davis, who started and played almost 36 minutes.
“He was everything I anticipated,” Garnett said. “He’s energetic, he keeps going—he was Ricky Davis. When you get Ricky Davis, you get a high-energy player, a guy who plays hard for 48 minutes.”
Davis, who had started all 42 games with Boston before the trade, was averaging 19.7 points and 5.3 assists. He hit five of his first eight shots, but the Rockets were sharp, too, starting 7-for-10.
The Rockets went cold and rookie Rashad McCants got rolling for Minnesota, scoring a career-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the second quarter.
McGrady, flustered by a 4-for-11 start, ripped off the facemask and tossed it to the bench with 9:42 left in the third quarter.
McGrady hurt his nose on Wednesday, taking an inadvertent elbow from Charlotte’s Jake Voskuhl. While his nose wasn’t broken, McGrady said earlier Friday he’ll probably wear the mask for a few games.
He was reconsidering that idea after the game.
“It was a little uncomfortable,” McGrady said. “Every time I was running up and down the court, sweat is pouring and it got kind of hot in there. I just couldn’t take it anymore and took it off.”
McGrady swished a 3-pointer with 9:43 left to make it 71-all, the first of four ties in the fourth quarter.
“Down the stretch, it just boils down to the fact that we need to do a better job of executing on the offensive end and defensive end as well,” McGrady said.
Rockets F Juwan Howard sat out because of flu symptoms. Howard is the 11th player on the current roster to miss a game because of illness or injury. …The road team has won six of the last seven meetings between the teams. … Houston C Yao Ming, who’s missed 18 games since undergoing toe surgery on Dec. 19, says he’ll return to the lineup next week. “Everything is going well,” Yao said. “I’m getting close.”