HOUSTON (AP)—The Boston Celtics are playing their best basketball. So well, in fact, that they went on the road and ended Houston’s six-game winning streak.
“We are becoming an elite team and we are doing it because guys are sacrificing and sharing the ball,” Paul Pierce said after Mark Blount came off the bench and matched his season high with 22 points to lead the Celtics to their season-best sixth straight victory, 103-92 over the Rockets on Friday night.
Boston has won 10 of its last 11.
“This was another test for us. Houston was as hot as us, and maybe even hotter, and we came in and got the win,” Pierce added.
The Celtics never trailed after the first minute of play and led comfortably for most of the game.
“It was a great game for us and a test of where our team is,” Ricky Davis said. “Houston has been playing really well lately, but we had it the whole game. We were making our shots and playing together as a team.”
The Celtics’ bench outscored Houston’s 52-27.
“Mark Blount was great for us. He really helped open our offense by hitting his outside shots,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “We did a great job of executing our offense. We wanted to run a lot of pick-and-rolls to push Yao Ming away from the basket and keep him from moving around.
“I loved the way our defense played and we had only 10 turnovers,” Rivers added.
McGrady and Yao agreed that Boston’s execution of the pick-and-roll was a key factor.
“They were hot tonight. They did a good job or working the pick-and-rolls and they were making shots,” McGrady explained. “We did a lot of things wrong tonight and we couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Even with myself, I was missing layups. What happened tonight we can’t let happen again.”
After trailing by 14 at the end of the third quarter, Houston briefly threatened a comeback, cutting Boston’s lead to 97-88 with 2:12 left after consecutive baskets by Bob Sura. But the Rockets never got closer.
Boston led 28-22 going into the second period and held a 35-30 advantage with 6:51 left in the half. The Celtics then went on a 16-3 scoring run, six by Davis, to lead 51-33 before Houston cut its deficit to 56-42 at the half.
Boston increased its lead in the third period, outscoring Houston 21-19. Blount scored three straight baskets to give the Celtics their biggest lead of the game, 76-55. Boston led 77-61 going into the final period.
Houston dropped to 30-12 when Sura starts … David Wesley has scored 20 or more points in three of his last five games after scoring 20 or more only once in his first 32 games with the Rockets … Boston is 15-4 when Paul Pierce has six or more assists … The Celtics are 20-6 when they hold their opponent to less than 100 points … Houston shot a season low 65.6 from the free throw line.