Boston, MA – Paul Pierce poured in a team-high 23 points on Friday night to lead the Boston Celtics to a 103-91 triumph over the Houston Rockets at TD Garden.
Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds, while Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger each donated 14 points off the bench for the Celtics, who have won five straight games.
James Harden paced the Rockets with 24 points and Chandler Parsons followed with 18 in the setback, Houston's second in a row.
"That's the second game in a row where we haven't shot well, haven't moved it really well either," former Celtic great and current Rockets head coach Kevin McHale admitted. "We had 22 assists, but when you miss a bunch of shots, you just don't get assists."
Boston led 53-45 at halftime before Pierce opened the second half with eight straight points to push the Celtics' edge to 16 less than two minutes into the third.
The Celtics held Houston at arm's length from there, never allowing the visitors to get closer than 10 before taking a 78-66 advantage into the fourth.
A three-point play from Garnett early in the final frame pushed the margin to 14 before the Rockets made their run, ripping off 12 straight points to pull within 83-81 on Parsons' fastbreak dunk with 7:22 to play.
Boston was able to weather the storm however, as Pierce answered with a jumper to quell the run and send the Celtics on an 11-1 sprint that Garnett capped with a jumper to make it 94-82 with 4:20 left in the fourth.
The Rockets never recovered, as the Celtics led by double-digits the rest of the way to hang on for the victory.
"Well we picked up the defense," Pierce said of stopping Houston's surge. "I thought we came out there and got stops, executed our offense and were able to push the lead back to double figures."
Houston used an early 13-0 surge to build a 17-8 advantage, but the Celtics closed the quarter on a 16-4 swing, capped by Lee's buzzer-beating jumper to provide the home team with a 24-21 edge after 12 minutes.
Greg Smith opened the second with a dunk to trim the margin to one before a 12-5 Boston swing pushed the lead to 36-28 with 7:17 left in the half.
Toney Douglas responded with five straight points to make it a one-possession game, but Jeff Green threw down a pair of emphatic dunks as part of a 10-0 Boston run, which Lee capped with a triple to make it 46-33 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
Houston, though, closed the quarter on an 8-3 swing to trim the margin to 53-45 heading into the locker room.
Harden had his streak of 14 consecutive games with at least 25 points snapped. The last time Harden scored less than 25 was Dec. 14 against the Celtics when he was held to 21 points ... Houston went 12-of-29 from the free throw line, while Boston connected on 12-of-16 from the charity stripe ... Sullinger also added 11 rebounds for the Celtics ... Boston shot 51.9 percent (41-for-79) from the field.