Rockets pull away from Celtics in fourth quarter

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James Harden netted a game-high 21 points to go with five rebounds and five assists as the Houston Rockets knocked off the Boston Celtics, 101-89, on Friday at Toyota Center.

Greg Smith drained 8-of-9 shots from the floor for 20 points to go with six rebounds, while Chandler Parsons added 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Rockets, who have won back-to-back games since a three-game slide. Toney Douglas chipped in 11 points to the victory.

"Chandler had a really nice game," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "He did a good job defensively. He had some steals at times when we needed them. It was a good win for us. I thought Chandler played very well."

Paul Pierce dropped in a team-high 18 points with seven rebounds, while Rajon Rondo added 15 points and 13 assists for the Celtics, who were coming off a double-overtime home win over Dallas on Wednesday.

Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry donated 14 and 12 points, respectively, in the setback.

Houston came flying out of the gate, hitting six of its first 10 shots to build a 17-4 lead. The Celtics answered with five straight points, however, to cut the deficit to eight with 5:28 on the first-quarter clock.

Smith buried a 20-footer off a nice feed from Parsons with 2:45 to go in the period which put the Rockets ahead by a 23-13 count, and the home side held a 27-19 advantage after one quarter.

Trailing by nine early in the second quarter, the Celtics rallied to snag a 36-32 lead by scoring 13 consecutive points, capped by a 20-footer from Brandon Bass with 5:02 to play before the half.

Pierce buried a three from the top of the arc later on to make it a 41-34 Boston cushion, but the Rockets answered with a 7-1 spurt to cut the deficit to 42-41 with less than a minute left prior to halftime. Boston led 45-43 at the break.

The Rockets began the third quarter with a 12-4 run to go ahead 55-49. Courtney Lee then swished home a trey to bring Boston within three, but Parsons answered later in the quarter with a turnaround hook shot that widened the Rockets' lead to 63-54 with 5:47 to go in the frame.

The Rockets kept Boston at arm's length for the rest of the session and held a 75-70 advantage going into the fourth.

Boston hung around for much of the final period, and a trey by Pierce trimmed Houston's lead to 88-83 with 5:09 to play. The Rockets took over from there, though, closing out the game with a 13-6 flurry to roll to victory.

"We came out real slow to start the game and we picked it up in the second quarter," Pierce said. "We're still trying to put four quarters together. You can't play every other quarter and expect to win games."

Game Notes

Houston has won four of the last five matchups between the teams ... Boston still leads the all-time series, 86-44 ... Prior to the game, Houston re- assigned forward Terrence Jones and forward/center Donatas Motiejunas to Rio Grande Valley of the D-League ... Boston shot 40 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 13 times, which led to 22 Houston points ... Houston dominated Boston in fast-break points, 25-11.