Boston (36-29) at Houston (39-25)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 78° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Fri Mar 18, 2005
  • TV: FSNE, FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Houston Rockets didn’t seem to miss Juwan Howard at all on Wednesday night.

After easily winning their first game since losing their starting power forward, the Rockets look to extend their win streak to seven games when they host the Boston Celtics.

David Wesley and Bob Sura each scored 21 points as the Rockets posted their largest margin of victory this season with Wednesday’s 108-77 home win over Portland. Two days earlier in a win at Golden State, Howard suffered a sprained right knee that will cause him to miss at least four weeks.

“We didn’t focus on him not being there,” Wesley said. “We just focused on what we could do. Everybody has to do it collectively. What we miss from him we have to make up by everyone else doing a good solid job.”

It was also the Rockets’ first game at home since sweeping a four-game road trip that featured victories over three of the top five teams in the West— Seattle, Phoenix and Sacramento.

Sura struggled in his previous five games, averaging 4.2 points during that span, but was 7-of-8 from the field, including 3-for-4 from behind the arc, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

“He has a certain toughness and intensity that every team needs,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “He can shoot the 3, and every team challenges him to make 3s. Hopefully he can continue to do it.”

Tracy McGrady added 19 points and six assists and Yao Ming had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Rockets, who shot just over 50 percent (36-of-71) and connected on eight of 16 3-point attempts.

Howard attended Wednesday’s game on crutches, vowing to return in time for the playoffs.

“We don’t need anything like this to happen now,” said Howard, averaging 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds this season. “It’s very frustrating and tough for me to deal with. But I’m going to work very hard to get back.”

Clarence Weatherspoon started in Howard’s place and had just two points in 18 minutes, but Houston got strong support from reserves Dikembe Mutombo, Jon Barry and Mike James—who combined for 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting.

“We have a deep team,” Sura said. “We’ve been able to suffer some injuries and been able to get through it.”

With a win Friday, the Rockets will reach 40 victories in their 65th game, the quickest they’ll hit the plateau since doing it in the 60th game of the 1996-97 season—when they finished 57-25.

The Celtics kick off a three-game road trip after escaping with their fifth consecutive win, 110-109 over Toronto on Wednesday.

Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker each scored 24 points as Boston nearly blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, when they were outscored by the Raptors 30-20.

“We’re not really happy with the way we played in the fourth quarter,” Pierce said. “We know we could improve, especially on the defensive end.”

The victory was the ninth in 10 games for the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics since acquiring Walker from Atlanta on Feb. 24.

Boston’s road trip also takes it to New Orleans and New York.

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