Celtics end Rockets’ 22-game winning streak

Tuesday March 18, 2008 11:55 PM

Celtics end Rockets' 22-game winning streak

Boston 94, Houston 74

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Damien Pierce
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- During the late stages of the fourth quarter, Paul Pierce plopped himself onto

the scorer's table and watched a video featuring Houston's historic winning

streak on the scoreboard.

He and the Celtics then ensured there wouldn't be a sequel.

Before the largest home crowd in Rockets history, the NBA's best team ended the

second-longest winning streak in league history Tuesday night by knocking off

Houston 94-74 at Toyota Center.

The Rockets (46-21) suffered their first setback in almost two months and had

their remarkable winning streak snapped at 22 games, falling 11 games shy of

matching Wilt Chamberlain and the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers for the longest win

streak ever in the NBA.

Houston couldn't overcome a stagnant offensive performance as the Celtics'

league-leading defense bullied them from start to finish.

Without an answer for Boston's swarming defense, the Rockets watched their

amazing run finally come to an end.

"I'm too close to the situation right now to really appreciate it," Rockets

forward Shane Battier said. "When I’m old and gray and can’t dribble this

basketball anymore, I think I'll appreciate it. Right now, we're still in a

playoff run and have got some dogs barking at our heels."

The Celtics bottled up the Rockets from onset.

Boston's D was glued to Tracy McGrady from start to finish, rarely allowing

Houston's lone star to find an opening. Coming off seemingly every pick-and-roll

that the Rockets ran, McGrady was blitzed by two defenders and forced to

surrender the ball.

That defensive manuever stumped McGrady and Co. for the second straight game. The

Rockets' shooting guard couldn't get into a rhythm, attempting a mere 11 shots.

He sank four of them for eight points.

McGrady said after the game that his supporting cast needed to hit open shots

when the defense is clamping down on him. Alston agreed.

"We got to move the ball and move our bodies," Alston said. "Everybody thought

they could do it alone tonight for some odd reason. That's not like us. We got to

get away from that. We have to move the ball. Think about it: If there are two

people on one person, someone is open. We got to pass that person and that person

has to make the next play because the defense is going to swing to them. I think

if we could have attacked them better, it would have been nip-and-tuck to the


Instead, the Rockets watched the Celtics turn the game into a blowout.

After going into the break knotted at 40-40, Houston struggled to generate any

good looks and became stagnant on the offensive end against the Celtics' swarming

defense. The Celtics overwhelmed the Rockets in the paint, forcing Houston to

settle for jumpers and giving them only one shot per possession.

Boston, meanwhile, was putting on a shooting clinic. The Celtics made eight of

their first 12 shots in the third quarter. Kevin Garnett, who scored 22 points

and collected 11 rebounds, scored eight points in the third as Boston opened the

period with a game-deciding 18-5 spurt. Just like that, Boston was leading


Unfortunately, the Rockets never recovered. Houston scored a season-low 34 points

in the second half and shot a mere 41.4 percent. On top of that, the Rockets had

only 16 assists to go with 17 turnovers.

Before the game was over, Boston had stretched its advantage to as much as 27


"We're at our best when we get balance and get to our second and third option,"

Battier said. "That allows Tracy a lot more room to operate. Boston did a great

job. We didn't find the second and third options and that's been our weakness the

entire year when we've lost. It's nothing that we don't feel we can remedy. We

just have to move the ball a little better and get better body movement."

The Rockets won't have to wait long to put that plan into practice.

Less than two hours after being thumped by Boston, the Rockets were on their way

to New Orleans for a showdown against another one of the Western Conference's

leaders. The Hornets are a 1/2-game behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Rockets for

the top spot in the West.

With Houston still vying for playoff positioning, the Rockets don't want their

first setback in almost two months to become a skid.

"We're going on the road now," McGrady said. "This is not a letdown by any means.

We lost a game. We were on a hell of a run, but the streak is now over. We got to

move onto the next game."

Still, the Rockets could appreciate what they accomplished over the past two


Even after their early-season struggles and losing Yao Ming to season-ending foot

surgery, the Rockets strung together the second-longest winning streak in NBA


They just didn't have an answer for an opponent for the first time in almost two


"The streak means a lot," Alston said. "Our names will be mentioned with some

Hall of Famers and that great team that won 33 in a row. A lot of those players

are in the Hall of Fame. A lot of us won't be there. But the next time a team

goes on a streak like that, they'll have to catch us before they catch the