for this game

Celtics stand between Rockets and 23rd straight win

Mar 18, 2008 - 1:04 PM Boston (53-13) at Houston (46-20) 9:30 pm EDT

HOUSTON (Ticker) - The Houston Rockets have a large hurdle to clear if they hope to run their winning streak to 23 games.

The Boston Celtics, the best team in the NBA, visit Houston on Tuesday in a battle of conference leaders.

Houston, which has the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, overcame a poor shooting day by McGrady thanks to a career day from Rafer Alston in Sunday's 104-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

McGrady shot just 4-of-16, but Alston hit eight 3-pointers en route to a career-high 31 points. With the win, Houston moved into sole possesion of first place in the West.

"That's the makeup of our team," McGrady said. "There are going to be some nights where I'm going to be off and there are going to be nights where Rafer picks up the slack and Bobby (Jackson) picks up the slack. We have multiple guys that can pick up the slack. It's a good thing to have so that teams just can't key on me."

"I thought Tracy had as poor a game as he's had all season," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think that shows how good their team really is."

Only the 1971-72 Lakers 33-game winning streak is better than the Rockets' surprising run, which includes 10 victories without center Yao Ming, who is out for the season with a broken foot.

Boston, which has already sewn up the Atlantic Division, rallied for an impressive 93-91 victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Monday. Paul Pierce had 22 points and Kevin Garnett chipped in 21 as Boston rallied from a 22-point deficit.

Boston's Ray Allen, still nursing an injured left ankle, is expected to miss his third straight game Tuesday.