for this game

Celtics snap Rockets' 22-game winning streak

Mar 19, 2008 - 5:45 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics ended the second-longest winning streak in NBA history on Tuesday night, and they did it the hard way.

One night after coming from 17 points behind to beat the San Antonio Spurs on the road, the Celtics stopped the Houston Rockets' 22-game streak cold with a resounding, 94-74, victory at the Toyota Center.

"It was fun," Houston guard Rafer Alston said of the streak. "It was something that started quietly and kept going. It was beautiful."

But the Rockets never got it going Tuesday night.

"There's a reason why Boston has the best the record in the NBA," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "We played tough defense on them. We just couldn't get anything going offensively."

Kevin Garnett scored 22 points, reserve Leon Powe added 21 and Paul Pierce scored 20 for Boston, which outscored Houston, 54-34, in the second half to secure the victory.

"This is one of the best team accomplishments in sports," Garnett said of Houston's winning streak. "It's unbelievable. Nothing was easy tonight. Don't disrespect the Rockets. They played tough, and this wasn't an easy win."

The streak did provide some extra incentive for the Celtics.

"It was great (to end it)," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I think it really helped our guys. They wanted to stop the streak."

What the Celtics did was stop Houston's offense.

The Rockets have scored 100 or more points 11 times during the 22-game run and the fewest points the Rockets had scored was 83 in and eight-point triumph at Atlanta.

"The thing we did the best was take away the 3-point line from them," Rivers said. "They may be the best spot-up 3-point shooting team in the league. Our defensive energy was good the entire game."

The Rockets never could get their offense going on Tuesday night, netting a season-low 74 points and making 5-of-19 shots from the arc.

"They took us out of what we wanted to do in the third and fourth quarters," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "I'm disappointed with the way we played offensively. We didn't move the ball, didn't pass it quick enough.

"When you have a loss like that, you learn from that. We learned a lot of lessons tonight."

Two days earlier, the Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers at home for their 22nd straight win. Houston last lost on January 27 to the Utah Jazz, 97-89, at home.

The Lakers own the NBA record of 33 wins in a row, set in 1971-72.

Tracy McGrady, who scored only 11 in Sunday's win over the Lakers, managed just eight against Boston on 4-of-11 shooting in 34 minutes. Rookie forward Luis Scola led Houston with 15 points.

"We have to find ways to give him the ball in better spots," Adelman said of McGrady.

"It's because of who they are," McGrady said of being nearly shut down on offense. "They're well-coached, they're great athletes. My 11 years in the NBA I've never seen defense like that. They made us beat them from the outside. That was their game plan.

Despite getting overmatch by the Celtics' defense, McGrady wasn't hanging his head about the loss.

"If we were making shots, I guaranteed it would have loosened up. We were a little gassed. But they played (Monday) night. We were home resting while they played San Antonio. That's not an excuse.

"This is not a letdown by any means. We lost a game. We were on a (heck) of a run and we lost a game. The streak is now over, we've got another game (Wednesday at New Orleans). Eventually it had to happen, and it happened tonight. Now, we can look forward and not worry about all the talk about the streak."

Battier agreed.

"It was a great run," he said. "We've still got a lot to play for. This will be forgotten pretty quickly. We never get too high or too low. You're always glad you get to play after a loss."

Houston had won the last 10 with Yao Ming, who is out for the season with a stress fracture in his left foot.

The Celtics broke away from halftime with an 18-5 burst to start the third quarter and take control of the game. Led by Garnett and Pierce in the third, they ran off to a 72-56 bulge by the end of the period and never let the Rockets back in the game.

"We didn't shoot the ball particularly well," Pierce said. "In the third quarter, we knew what we had to do and buckled down on defense and made some runs."

Boston outrebounded Houston, 12-6, in the break-it-open third quarter, grabbing six offensive rebounds.

The Celtics scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to stretch their lead to an insurmountable 21 points. Adelman rested most of his regulars for the final eight minutes.

"You forget about it," Adelman said of the streak. "Sure, it was great. You don't get caught up in reminiscing. You've got to respond. We've got three tough games on the road right away (at New Orleans, Golden State and Phoenix).

"We have got forget about this game tonight."

Ray Allen missed his third game in a row for Boston with a jammed left ankle, and Tony Allen started in his place.