Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy returned to his former place of employment and enjoyed one of the best wins of his first season with the Rockets. He’ll hope for a similar effort when the Rockets return home to host the Boston Celtics at the Toyota Center.
The Rockets never trailed and scored 23 of the first 25 points, as every starter scored in double figures, en route to a 111-79 victory over the New York Knicks on Thursday night. Van Gundy, who coached the Knicks from 1995-2001, admitted that the victory held extra meaning for him.
“I don’t think you can play here or coach here and have this place not mean something extraordinary to you,” Van Gundy said about Madison Square Garden. “So, certainly, I was nervous not just about how we were going to play, but coming back you felt a bit awkward going down the other way.”
It was only the fourth time this season the Rockets eclipsed 100 points. Houston allows just 83.7 points per game, second-best in the league behind defending NBA champion San Antonio.
Boston won its 13th straight game from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, cruising to a 107-82 victory.
Paul Pierce had 30 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and Ricky Davis scored 16 in his first game against the Cavs since being traded by Cleveland in mid-December. The Celtics, 5-7 since the six-player deal on Dec. 15, have won three of their last four.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 9): Celtics - 2nd place, 2 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division. Rockets - 4th place (tied), 4 1/2 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Celtics - Pierce, 23.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 5.8 apg. Rockets - Francis, 17 ppg and 5.6 apg; Yao, 8.9 rpg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 24; 101-95, OT. At Boston, Mobley scored 31 points, hitting a 3-pointer to force overtime and another for the game-winner. Francis returned after missing a game with a sore back and scored 33 points to go with nine rebounds and nine assists.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Celtics - 9-8 on the road; Rockets - 12-4 at home.