THE FACTS: Paul Pierce had 23 points, helping the Boston Celtics hold off a fourth-quarter comeback from the Houston Rockets and earn their fifth straight win with a 103-91 victory at TD Garden. Kevin Garnett had 11 of his 17 points in the second half for the Celtics, as the hosts led by as many as 17 points behind a standout effort from the team's second unit. James Harden (24 points) and the Rockets would not give in to the sizable deficit, but their three-point (27.3 percent) and free throw (17 missed free throws) woes were too much to overcome. Houston has now lost two straight games.
QUOTABLE: "Our bench was huge. I mean, that's what stretched the game, that stretch in the end of the first and through most of the second quarter we left them out there. They're just playing so free together, and they're defending. One of the big differences is they're defending now."
-- Celtics coach Doc Rivers
THE STAT: The Celtics bench outscored Rockets bench by 36-9 in the first half, enabling Boston to turn a nine-point first-quarter deficit into an eight-point halftime lead.
TURNING POINT: After 12-0 run by Houston to cut the lead to two with 7:37 remaining in the 4th quarter, Celtics turned to Pierce to stop the bleeding, and Boston's captain responded by sparking a 11-1 spurt to put Boston ahead again by double digits.
QUOTABLE II: "I feel like we are building. We're getting better and better. Taking it one game at a time in this home stretch. Hopefully we can just keep it going."
-- Paul Pierce
HOT: Pierce -- After being saddled with foul trouble for the majority of the first half, Boston's leading scorer took command in the third quarter with his fresh legs. Pierce posted 11 of his team-high 23 points in the third quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers to help Boston extend their halftime lead.
NOT: Omer Asik -- Houston's stud center could not find the bottom of the net from the free throw line Friday night. The former Bull missed his first seven attempts from the charity stripe, going 1-for-8 on the evening.
FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Garnett -- Boston's defensive leader finished with a season-high four blocks, to go along with his usual efficient effort on the offensive end (17 points) and on the glass (eight rebounds).
QUOTABLE III: "We wanted to control the tempo, but they got the shots they wanted and we didn't make them uncomfortable enough."
-- Jeremy Lin
ROOKIE WATCH: Jared Sullinger -- The 20-year-old has his second straight double-double, posting 14 points and 11 rebounds against a formidable Rockets' front line, before fouling out in the game's closing moments.
INSIDE THE ARENA: New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd watched the game from courtside, and received a rousing ovation from the TD Garden crowd.
NOTABLE: The Celtics improved to 14-2 when they hold their opponents under 95 points...The Rockets had won 10 of their past 13 games...Courtney Lee tied a team-high off the bench with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting...Carlos Delfino hit just 1-for-7 3-point attempts. He had been shooting 50 percent beyond the arc over his past 10 games...With the win the Celtics are just four games behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead...Houston had 17 of their 24 fast break points in the second half...The Celtics did not get to the foul line in the first half...The Rockers fell to 14-3 against the Eastern Conference...Harden had his streak of 14 consecutive games with 25 points snapped.
UP NEXT: For Houston, Saturday @ Houston, Tuesday vs. L.A. Clippers Wednesday @ Dallas. For Boston, Monday vs. Charlotte, Wednesday vs. New Orleans, Friday vs. Chicago.