for this game

Yao, Rockets continue Celtics' slide

Jan 8, 2009 - 5:28 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Houston Rockets were the latest team to spoil a winning streak for the Boston Celtics.

Von Wafer hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 44 seconds remaining and the Rockets held on to beat the Celtics, 89-85, on Wednesday night at TD Banknorth Garden.

The win snapped Houston's three-game losing streak and ended Boston's 13-game, home-court winning streak.

Yao Ming scored 26, including a clinching putback layup, and Aaron Brooks added 19 for the Rockets, who won for the first time on their five-game road trip.

"I just tried to play the game I usually play." Yao said. "Low post and swing the ball out. Try and make some shots, nothing different."

"Yao Ming is the best center in the league, surrounded by some good players," Houston forward Ron Artest added. "But sometimes we forget that hard work is more important than talent. Last year, Boston had hard work and they had talent, that's why they ran through everybody.

"I think we're as talented, but we need to work hard. Sometimes we think Yao is going to bail us out all the time, or me or Tracy (McGrady) are gonna bail us out. But we got to work hard. Tonight we worked hard."

Paul Pierce scored 26 points as the Celtics were held to just 11 fourth-quarter points and shot just 4-of-18 in the final 12 minutes.

"Honestly, I thought our offense, we got great shots," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They just didn't fall. Eleven points in the fourth quarter is not going to win a lot of games for you. So you know, clearly at the end of games, last three or four minutes, you've got to play great defense, and we didn't. They scored every time."

Pierce agreed.

"Right now, our defense is not getting the job done," Pierce added. "When you look at us, that's one of the first things we talk about. That's the type of team we are and, when we don't defend it doesn't allow us to get out and run the break.

"We're not causing turnovers like we want to. I told the guys we need to get our defensive swagger back. It's been broken these last 10 or 12 days. We know what we're capable of; it's just about going back to the basics and doing what we do."

Kevin Garnett added 18 points for Boston, which now has lost six of eight following a franchise-record, 19-game winning streak.

"I think it's more mental than anything," Garnett said of the club's stretch beginning on Christmas. "We've had two real, real difficult months but we have weathered the storm, if you will.

"As of late, we have had some slippage in the defense, and it goes to show you what practice time and the things you can clean up in practice, which we haven't had a lot of. We are a very, very confident team."

The Rockets played the game without McGrady, who is being held out of select back-to-back games because of a sore left knee.

Brooks and Yao helped to pick up the slack in the first half, as each scored 13 to help Houston to a 52-49 lead.

"We need to keep our passion," Yao said. "Tonight is a big one for us. The Celtics we have a lot of respect for. They won the championship last year and are hard to beat. We just need to keep doing that as a team in the next game."

The Celtics looked ready to take control of the game early on as they made 12-of-18 shots from the field in the first quarter as they took a 31-22 lead after one. Pierce and Garnett combined for 21 of Boston's 31 points.

"We talked about playing their 'Big Three,' and we wanted to make them take jump shots," Houston coach Rick Adelman said of Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen. "We didn't want to have them get the ball where they could get layups.

"They really hurt us in Houston on the boards, and whenever they missed they got it back and they scored, they just kind of pushed us around, so we made a conscious effort of talking about that, so it's something we had to do."

The Celtics opened the lead to 11 when Gabe Pruitt hit a jumper with 11:43 remaining in the second. But Houston then became red hot from the field, matching Boston's 12-of-18 performance in the first quarter.

Houston ended the first half on an 11-3 run to take a 52-49 halftime lead.

The Rockets built their lead to seven thanks to their 3-point sharpshooters. They converted on seven of their first 14 shots from beyond the arc.

"Right now, we're getting the same shot, they're going in and out, they're getting second shots off of long rebounds and making shots, they're having role players step up and make threes," Rivers said.

"This is how it is. This is just the NBA's basketball gods sometimes. You've just got to stay with each other and keep playing, and things will work out."

But Pierce scored a team-high 13 in the third quarter as the Celtics recaptured the momentum and lead, 74-71, heading into the fourth.

Brooks hit a long 3-pointer from the right wing with 4:23 remaining in the fourth as Houston reclaimed the lead at 81-79.

Houston avenged a 103-99 home court loss on November 4 and gained a measure of revenge as the Celtics ended the Rockets' 22-game winning streak in February 2008.