Charles Barkley had a compliment for the Minnesota Timberwolves and a warning for his teammates after the Houston Rockets' sweep of their first-round NBA playoff series.

The Rockets eliminated Minnesota from its first-ever playoff series with a 125-120 victory Tuesday night, but they had to work hard for the second straight game to pull out the victory."It was a good game, and we were lucky to win," Barkley said after Houston clinched the series 3-0.

"It's not easy to sweep teams. Giving up 120 points, we played base `D.' We won't win the next round like that."

The Rockets won the opener 112-95, but they had to fight late into the fourth quarter for their 96-84 victory in the second game.

The Rockets took Wednesday off to rest for their second-round Western Conference opponent, either Phoenix or Seattle. Phoenix leads that series 2-1.

Barkley said the Timberwolves' appearance in the playoffs was a tribute to Kevin McHale, vice president for basketball operations.

"I told Kevin McHale he has done an excellent job," Barkley said. "I have a lot of respect for him as a person. I've always said he is the best player I have played against."

The Timberwolves, meanwhile, had plenty of praise for the Rockets.

"I can't say enough about Houston," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "This summer, people said they were the Chicago Bulls of the West. If they hadn't been hurt, they probably would be the No. 1 seed.

"They did a great job of mixing the players together. Sometimes it's tougher to coach a talented team than a team without talent."

The Rockets put their talent to use in the closing minutes to close out the first-round series.

"We did a good job handling pressure," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.