Rockets 95, Celtics 80

Preview | Box Score | Recap

BOSTON (AP)—The Houston Rockets weren’t about to let the Boston Celtics show them up again.

Cuttino Mobley scored 24 points, and Yao Ming added 21 points and 15 rebounds to lead Houston past Boston 95-80 Wednesday night.

After losing to the Celtics 97-93 in Houston on Sunday, the Rockets felt Boston talked too much trash during the game, and did too much towel-waving afterward.

So the Rockets circled the return date on their calendar and set out to deal Boston some payback.

“Our coaches told us no matter what, I don’t care what you’re winning by or what you’re losing by, you never try to degrade a team. That’s what we felt they did when we were in Houston,” Rockets guard Steve Francis said. “We didn’t talk much trash. I think we proved it on the court,”

The Rockets won their third straight road game and eclipsed 90 points for the fourth game in a row, their longest such streak this season. All four games have come following an 85-66 loss to Detroit on Jan. 7 in which Houston tied a franchise low for points.

Ahead 47-42 at halftime, Houston opened a 16-point lead late in the third quarter with a 14-4 run. Jimmy Jackson pushed the Rockets’ lead to 57-45 with a 3-pointer, and Scott Padgett made it 64-48 with a 3-pointer with 5:41 left in the third.

“I thought we played well. I’m sure they missed some shots they normally make. Our guys did a good job defensively,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

Celtics star Paul Pierce revealed after the game that he had sustained a bruise between the middle and index fingers of his left hand against Milwaukee on Tuesday. He aggravated the injury during the first quarter Wednesday, and scored a season-low four points on 1-of-10 shooting.

“It went numb and it was difficult to catch and hold the ball. I’m having X-rays tomorrow and I hope it’s not seriously injured,” Pierce said.

Boston got as close as 82-68 with 5:21 left, but Mobley hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the Rockets an 88-70 lead.

Yao scored 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field in the first half as Houston built a 42-30 lead midway through the second quarter. Ahead 34-27, the Rockets pushed their lead to 12 with 5:34 left in the first half thanks to eight straight points from Yao, who scored on two layups, a dunk and a putback.

Yao got his 16th double-double, and showed once again that Houston’s best chance for success on the perimeter comes when Yao is clogging the lane.

“It opens up everything. We need him to be that dominant, whether it’s shooting his jump shot, setting picks or dumping the ball inside,” Francissaid.

Notes

Before Wednesday night, Yao had averaged just 8.3 points in three career games against Boston. … Rockets forward Kelvin Cato was scratched from the starting lineup and did not play because of a sprained left foot. … Houston improved to 14-1 when shooting above 45 percent from the field. … Celtics forward Vin Baker suited up but did not play for the second straight game following his return from a three-game suspension. … Pierce, last week’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is the only player in the NBA to leadhis team in points, rebounds and assists.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Houston
Y. Ming Y. Ming
10-14,  21 Pts
15 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Boston
R. Davis R. Davis
4-9,  12 Pts
5 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists