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Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics rebounded from a disappointing loss with championship resolve.
Allen scored 29 points, Kevin Garnett added 14 points and 11 rebounds and the Celtics shut down Ron Artest and Yao Ming in a 103-99 victory over the Houston Rockets last night.
Tracy McGrady scored 26 points but couldn't rally Houston down the stretch.
The Celtics have heard all the buzz about the Rockets (3-1), who have talked boldly about contending for an NBA title since acquiring Artest in the offseason. But the defending champs arrived in Houston thinking more about their 95-79 loss to Indiana on Saturday than making some kind of statement.
"With Artest coming here, I know they see what we did the previous summer in having three guys who really can play and really can score," said Allen, who hit 11 of 15 shots. "You have a tendency to get caught in the hype of the wrong team and you start to believe it. What we did, we came out here, we lost the last game, and we needed to come out here and do the things we do that make us successful."
The Rockets shot 39 percent (34-of-87), but had their chances.
Boston (3-1) led 101-97 when McGrady rose for a 3-pointer and was fouled by Tony Allen. McGrady landed awkwardly and grabbed his sore left knee as Rivers protested the call, claiming McGrady was trying to pass. He was given three foul shots and made two, cutting Boston's lead to 101-99.
Eddie House hit two free throws at the other end with 9.6 seconds remaining. Brent Barry then shot an airball and Garnett caught it to secure the win.
"We did not play well at all," said Artest, who missed 13 of 16 shots and scored 15 points by sinking six free throws. "Usually you can say you've got to give them credit. But there were things that we could've done better to pull out the victory."
Paul Pierce added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics. Yao went 4-for-14 from the field and scored eight points for Houston.
"Probably one of my worst games of all time," Yao said.
Afterward, Celtics coach Doc Rivers offered encouragement to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
"Y'all are going to be great," Rivers said. "I'm telling you."
Last night, the Rockets found out how much better they need to be. They were outrebounded 46-41, went 7-for-24 from 3-point range (29.2 percent) and were outscored 42-26 in the paint.
"We were right there through everything we did," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We just didn't play a complete game for the whole 48 minutes and you have to against that team."
The Celtics ended the Rockets' 22-game winning streak last season with a 94-74 win at the Toyota Center on March 18. Yao missed that game with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Houston feels more equipped to win games like this with defensive specialist Artest. He guarded Pierce from the opening tip and stole the ball on Boston's second possession. Yao, guarded by 6-foot-10 Kendrick Perkins, had a dunk and two hook shots in the first five minutes.
But Yao went to the bench with his second foul with 6:35 left in the first quarter and the Celtics went on a 15-4 run. Boston's lead swelled to 16, but the smaller Rockets' lineup mounted a 25-4 run in the second quarter, sinking nine straight shots, including three 3-pointers.
The Celtics hit 11 of 16 shots in the third quarter to keep a slim lead heading into the fourth.
This program aired on November 5, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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