NBA

Celtics return home to face Harden, Rockets

BOSTON -- The Houston Rockets have only 14 losses through 48 games this season.

Only one of those defeats has come after another loss.

Houston, a loser in Milwaukee on Monday night, brings a 12-1 post-defeat record to Boston for a game against the Celtics on Wednesday night.

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The Rockets couldn't fly into Boston after the Monday game because of the New England weather, so they practiced in Milwaukee on Tuesday. They were in Boston by the time the Celtics were playing, and dropping their third straight game, in Washington on Tuesday night.

Houston fell to the Bucks despite having its preferred starting lineup back after center Clint Capela returned from injury. The good news is the Rockets are still 15-3 with that lineup. The bad news is that they surrendered 127 points in the loss -- and they have lost two of their past three and are 5-8 since a nine-game winning streak.

The Rockets also gave up a season-worst 34 points off turnovers Monday. They gave the ball away 22 times.

League MVP candidate James Harden had 38 points at Milwaukee. He is averaging 28.6 points, 11.6 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 53.1 percent from the floor.

"He puts a lot pressure on the defense," said Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd, a pretty fair guard in his time. "His basketball IQ is very high. He's seen a lot of different defenses, so he knows what's open. He's very patient. Give him credit. He's never in a hurry."

The Celtics were involved in some drama in their game against the Wizards on Tuesday. There were physical confrontations between the teams in the prior two meetings this season, with police needed between the locker rooms after a recent game in Boston.

So, the Wizards came to the arena dressed in black for a "funeral" game and got a combined 58 points from John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Washington backcourt duo, taking advantage of the absence of the injured Avery Bradley, went 23 of 38 from the floor in a 123-108 Wizards win.

Isaiah Thomas scored 25 and had 13 assists for the Celtics -- his 28th straight game with at least 20 points. John Havlicek has the team record of 40.

"I remember last year, dudes didn't like playing against us," Thomas said of the Wizards.

Talking about his team allowing 123 points, Thomas said, "Our defense isn't where we wanted to be, but that's been the story of our whole season."

Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: "They were really good, but we just don't have enough impact on the ball. That's the bottom line. We just don't impact the ball enough, and I think that's something that has been a strength of ours at times in the past.

"For whatever reason, we're not doing that well."

Marcus Smart, starting for Bradley, became involved in a verbal altercation with Celtics assistant coaches in the fourth quarter. He wanted to get back in the game.

"Coaches and players, they're real passionate about the game," Smart said. "When losing, they have different opinions about certain things on the bench."

The Rockets beat the Celtics 107-106 in Texas on Dec. 6, Houston's sixth win in its past seven games against Boston. Celtics center Al Horford scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds but missed a driving layup at the buzzer. Harden had 37 points, thanks to going 18 of 18 from the foul line, and added eight rebounds, seven assists and 10 turnovers.

Thomas scored 20 points and Bradley had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the loss, but Bradley will not be available Wednesday nor in the Celtics' games Friday and Saturday as he continues to battle an Achilles injury.