Houston at Boston

K.G., Celtics defuse Rockets for seventh consecutive victory

CBSSports.com wire reports
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BOSTON -- Two different Boston centers fouled out trying to guard Yao Ming before the biggest Celtics big man of all took on the job himself.

For Kevin Garnett, it was just another way to be indispensable down the stretch.

"It was superstar on superstar," Celtics forward James Posey said. "He accepts those challenges, and we jumped on his back and he carried us to a win."

Garnett scored 11 of his 26 points in the last seven minutes, grabbing a steal with two minutes left and blocking a shot with just seconds remaining on Wednesday night to help the Boston Celtics beat the Houston Rockets 97-93 and earn their seventh consecutive victory.

Paul Pierce scored 19 points and assisted on four key baskets down the stretch as the Celtics improved to 27-3 to match the best 30-game start in the shot-clock era. Five other teams have lost just three of their first 30 games, including the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls who finished the season with an NBA-record 72 wins.

Quite a turnaround for a team that missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

"Used to be in my years in the league," said Rockets forward Shane Battier, pausing to smile, "let's just say you are more concerned coming in this building now. They have a three-headed monster -- (Ray) Allen, Garnett and Pierce. What a difference a year makes."

Yao had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Rockets, who were without Tracy McGrady for the fourth consecutive game because of a sore left knee. Rockets coach Rick Adelman said he had no update on McGrady, who had previously been listed as day to day.

Both Scot Pollard and Kendrick Perkins fouled out trying to guard Yao before Garnett, who also had nine rebounds, took on the job himself.

"He definitely made him uncomfortable on defense, and on offense he stretched him," Allen said. "Kevin made a lot of big shots down the stretch. ... You catch a little fire and he knocks down some shots for us. That was the difference."

The Celtics led by 20 points in the second quarter and eight points at the end of three. It was 78-70 with 10:29 left in the game when Rafer Alston and Bonzi Wells combined for nine straight points and Luis Scola hit two free throws, completing the 11-0 run and giving Houston an 81-78 lead.

The Rockets led 84-81 when Pierce hit Garnett for a short turnaround jumper and then Pierce came up with a loose ball, chucking it ahead to Allen for the fast-break layup that gave Boston the lead with 6:17 left. After Yao missed a baby hook, Garnett got the rebound and, at the other end, made a jumper from the right side of the basket as the shot clock expired.

Battier hit a 3-pointer to tie it 87-all, but Rajon Rondo made a surprisingly easy drive into the lane to give Boston the lead for good. Garnett hit a fallaway from the left side to make it 91-87 with 2:41 left, then hit a jumper to make it a four-point game.

After the Rockets called timeout with 2:22 left, Garnett came back on the court with his arms raised together like a ballet dancer preparing for a jump. The crowd rose to a throaty roar as Garnett's hands reached toward the 16 NBA championship banners in the rafters.

Alston, standing laneside awaiting the free throws, just smiled.

"When you play against the best in the league, you can't go in with low gas, you've got to have a lot of high octane," Garnett said. "I fed off this building, these fans are the spark plug and I just plugged in and didn't even think what I was doing."

Wells hit a pair of free throws, then Garnett hit one of two before stealing an entry pass to Yao. Pierce set up Garnett at the other end for a jumper that gave Boston a 94-89 lead, then did it again with a backward bounce pass to clinch the game with 22.2 seconds left.

Pierce jumped on Garnett's back in celebration.

Notes

  • Garnett, who received four stitches after getting hit in Sunday's game against the Lakers, played with a bandage over his right eye.
  • The Celtics improved to 9-0 against the West.
  • Rockets G Steve Francis did not make the trip to Boston because of tendinitis in his quadriceps.
  • Rondo had nine assists and two turnovers, his first since Dec. 23 against Orlando.
  • Pollard got a standing ovation after fouling out with 10:13 left in the game. Yao had 17 points and 12 rebounds at the time.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
 
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Boston rides K.G. to the finish line after he scores 11 points in the final seven minutes.  (Getty Images)
Boston rides K.G. to the finish line after he scores 11 points in the final seven minutes. (Getty Images)

Scoreboard
Houston (15-17) 1626262593
Boston (27-3) «3023232197
HOU:B. Wells 25 Pts
HOU:Y. Ming 13 Reb
HOU:L. Scola 4 Ast
BOS:K. Garnett 26 Pts
BOS:K. Garnett 9 Reb
BOS:R. Rondo 9 Ast
Players of the Game
BostonHouston

K. Garnett

Y. Ming
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
269319132
Houston
R. Alston, PG448-161-112018
Y. Ming, C427-205-6132419
S. Battier, SF362-70-02136
L. Head, PG334-110-003010
C. Hayes, PF142-40-06144
B. Wells, SG298-149-1291325
L. Scola, PF222-43-47437
A. Brooks, PG111-40-02312
M. James, PG81-30-01112
D. Mutombo, CDid Not Play
T. McGrady, SGDid Not Play
S. Francis, PGDid Not Play
K. Snyder, SGDid Not Play
S. Novak, SFDid Not Play
C. Landry, PFDid Not Play
Totals 35-8318-2341181993
 42.2%78.3% 
Boston
R. Allen, SG436-150-022013
P. Pierce, SG407-123-667019
K. Garnett, PF3511-154-693226
R. Rondo, PG336-111-259013
K. Perkins, C262-40-02264
J. Posey, SF230-51-24141
E. House, SG154-60-00019
S. Pollard, C144-52-351610
T. Allen, SG80-20-00200
G. Davis, PF21-20-01012
B. Scalabrine, PFDid Not Play
L. Powe, PFDid Not Play
G. Pruitt, PGDid Not Play
Totals 41-7711-1934272097
 53.2%57.9% 
Other Games
Atl 94 Final
Cle 98
Mem 90 Final
Ind 72
NJ 96 Final
Orl 95
Det 106 Final
Wash 93
Chi 109 Final
Char 97
Mil 103 Final
Mia 98
Sac 107 Final
NY 97
Port 90 Final
Min 79
GS 99 Final
Dal 121
Phi 107 Final
Utah 110
NO 95 Final
LAC 81