Having finally earned a road victory, the Boston Celtics now turn their attention to trying to win consecutive games for the first time this season when they continue their five-game trip with a matchup against the struggling Houston Rockets.
Paul Pierce continued his recent strong play with 28 points and nine rebounds to help Boston register its first road win of the season, 102-99 over the New York Knicks on Sunday. Pierce, among the NBA leaders in scoring, has averaged 34.3 points and 10.3 rebounds over the last three games.
“That was a great win for us, obviously,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team had lost its first four games away from home. “It was our first win going on a long road trip. We couldn’t have asked for a better win.”
“I think we executed a lot better down the stretch,” Pierce said. “We got the ball in the hands of who we wanted to and didn’t panic. … We didn’t hesitate down the stretch and just got the win.”
Boston cut down on its turnovers Sunday, but rebounding continued to be a problem. Pierce leads the Celtics with 9.1 rebounds a game, but fellow starters Raef LaFrentz and Kendrick Perkins are combining for only 9.6 per contest. Boston has been outrebounded 95-70 over the last two games.
While Pierce has played well for the Celtics, Tracy McGrady is trying to return to form for the Rockets after missing eight games with back problems. In his second game back after sitting out five straight contests, McGrady missed his first eight shots and was held to 12 points in the Rockets’ 90-75 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.
Houston’s only win in the last nine games came last Tuesday against 2-14 Atlanta, when McGrady scored 25 points in his first appearance since Nov. 18.
“I’m not hurt, I’m just trying to get a rhythm,” McGrady said. “This is only my second game back. It just so happened that the last game, which was my first game back, I was making shots. … I feel fine. It was just a disappointing night.”
Yao Ming led the Rockets with 29 points and seven rebounds Saturday, but besides McGrady, no other player reached double-digits. Houston starters Juwan Howard, David Wesley and Luther Head combined for 16 points.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well,” Wesley said. “It’s pretty disappointing. It’s almost embarrassing.”
After this contest, the Rockets begin a six-game West Coast trip on Thursday against Sacramento. The Celtics conclude their trip with matchups against New Orleans, San Antonio and Dallas.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 5): Celtics - 1st place (tied), Atlantic Division. Rockets - 5th place, 9 1/2 GB, Southwest Division.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Celtics - F LaFrentz, F Pierce, C Perkins, G Davis, G West. Rockets - F McGrady, F Howard, C Yao, G Wesley, G Head.
TEAM LEADERS: Celtics - Pierce, 27 ppg and 9.1 rpg; Davis, 5.6 apg. Rockets - McGrady, 20.9 ppg and 4.4 apg; Yao, 8.9 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Celtics, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 13; Celtics, 102-82. At Boston, LaFrentz scored 32 points and Pierce added 19 points and 10 assists to lead the Celtics.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Celtics - 1-4 on the road; Rockets - 2-6 at home.