The Boston Celtics spent last week sweeping through their first West Coast trip of the season.
But they've been even better at home, where they return to host the banged-up Houston Rockets on Wednesday hoping to extend their latest winning streak to seven.
The Celtics (26-3) won four games in five days out West, closing with a flourish Sunday when they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-91. Boston also has the NBA's best home record, having gone 14-1 at the TD Banknorth Garden - including 4-0 against Western Conference teams.
The Celtics were without point guard Rajon Rondo (tight hamstring) against the Lakers, but Tony Allen had 16 points starting in his place and Boston's "Big Three" did more than enough to make up for Rondo's absence and overcome a combined seven technical fouls between the teams - four on the Celtics.
"Guys are going to come out and try and talk us out of our games," said forward Paul Pierce said, who had 33 points and eight rebounds. "We know we have a big red target on our back and everybody wants to beat the Celtics. We have the best record in the league and we have to be ready mentally and not get caught up in those little games."
It didn't matter against the Lakers, as Kevin Garnett had 22 points and 12 rebounds while Ray Allen had 19 points.
Pierce is averaging 31.3 points over the last three games, going 11-of-19 from 3-point range and 31-of-35 from the free throw line in that span.
As has often been the case, the Celtics' defense might have been more impressive. They held both Kobe Bryant (24.0 percent) and the Lakers (35.4 percent) to season lows in field goal percentage, and Boston leads the NBA in fewest points allowed (86.8 per game) and defensive field goal percentage (41.4 percent).
A win against Houston would create the Celtics' third winning streak of at least seven games this season, as they've also had runs of eight and nine wins.
"They've been impressive," Rockets point guard Rafer Alston told his team's official Web site. "They've got three of the best players in the game on one team. You got some role players that have fit into the system and then you throw in their defense. You have all the ingredients for a championship team."
Rockets guard and leading scorer Tracy McGrady will miss his fourth straight game as he continues to recover from a sore left knee. The Rockets (15-16) won their first two games without him, but stumbled late at home against Golden State on Sunday, getting outscored 37-15 in the fourth quarter of a 112-95 loss.
"We played like trash in the fourth quarter," Rockets guard Bonzi Wells said. "We controlled the game and played the way we wanted to play for three quarters. But the fourth quarter was just trash."
Since McGrady - averaging 22.8 points - joined the Rockets, Houston is 13-43 when he is out of the lineup. The Rockets are also without Steve Francis (quadriceps tendinitis), who has missed the last seven games and played in just 10 contests.
Alston scored a season-high 22 points but shot just 2-of-9 from 3-point range against the Warriors, while center Yao Ming had 16 and nine rebounds.
Houston has won four of its last five at Boston, including a 111-80 win last March, but the Rockets are just 8-10 on the road.
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