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The Rockets’ historical 22-game winning streak is now history, thanks to the Celtics. The Celtics and Rockets played to a hotly contested first half, which saw the score tied 40-40. The C’s pulled away in the second half however, racing ahead to a lead as high as 27 points en route to a dominating 94-74 victory.
Kevin Garnett, who earlier in the day was accused of tanking it at the end of last season, finished with 22 points (9-21 from the floor), 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocked shots. Celts captain Paul Pierce added 20 points in the win. The real surprise was the 21 points off the bench from Leon Powe (8-12 shooting). That really gave the Celtics a boost.
The key to the game was neutralizing the Rockets’ real scoring threat, Tracy McGrady. For the most part, the Celtics did that. McGrady went 4-11 from the field and finished with only 8 points, but added 7 rebounds and 8 assists.
Without McGrady scoring, the Rockets needed huge contributions from players like Rafer Alston and Shane Battier. Alston didn’t deliver in finishing with 12 points. Batteir fared worse, going for just 5 points. That will just not get it done.
As you probably would imagine, the Celtics dominated the inside game, winning the points-in-the-paint battle 52-34. Without Yao Ming, the Rockets cannot compete down low with the Celtics. It’s amazing they won that many games without Yao, and I think we’re gonna find out that the Rockets’ achilles heel will be the lack of an inside game. That will hurt them in the playoffs.
This was one of the biggest wins this season. The Celtics are now known as the team that ended the 22-game winning streak. This should give them a psychological edge over all who tried and failed to beat the Rockets. That can often be enough for some teams to take the extra step.