Rockets push past Celtics for 15th consecutive win

HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets know people understand how good they are on offense.

They hope games like this one showcase that they can play pretty good defense, too.

Eric Gordon scored 29 points off the bench, James Harden had 26 points and 10 assists, and the Rockets outlasted the Boston Celtics 123-120 on Saturday to extend their winning streak to a season-high 15 games.

“Defensively we are very equipped to get stops,” Trevor Ariza said. “So we have a lot in this locker room.”

Houston trailed by six before using a 10-2 run, with the last five points coming from Ariza, to take a 117-115 lead with 1:16 remaining. Ariza made a 3-pointer before stealing the ball from Kyrie Irving and finishing with a basket on the other end to cap the run.

Al Horford missed shots on Boston’s next two possessions before Chris Paul made two free throws with 15 seconds left to push the lead to four. Irving hit a layup seconds later, but Harden made one of two free throws with 7.4 seconds left to make it 120-117.

Irving and Paul hit two free throws each before Irving made one and purposely missed the second with 2.8 seconds left. Gordon made one of two free throws to make it 123-120 with 2.3 seconds remaining, and Marcus Smart’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer to give Houston the win.

“Defense (is) what it boiled down to,” Gordon said. “In the first half it was a little too easy for them … and the reason why we won was fourth-quarter defense.”

Houston’s winning streak ties the second-longest in franchise history, accomplished twice during Hakeem Olajuwon’s tenure in the 1990s, and trails only a 22-game run the Rockets had in the 2007-08 season. It’s their second long winning streak of the season after they won 14 in a row from Nov. 16 to Dec. 18.

Paul, who sat out with an injury in the last matchup with the Celtics, added 15 points and Ariza had 21.

Marcus Morris had 21 points off the bench for the Celtics, who had won four in a row since the All-Star break.

“I just thought they maximized more possessions than we did,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “Those were two good teams playing and both teams deserve a lot of credit for how they played.”

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NBA STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlantic Division

W L Pct GB

Toronto 44 17 .721 —

Boston 44 20 .688 1 1/2

Philadelphia 34 27 .557 10

New York 24 39 .381 21

Brooklyn 20 43 .317 25

Southeast Division

W L Pct GB

Washington 36 27 .571 —

Miami 33 30 .524 3

Charlotte 28 35 .444 8

Orlando 20 43 .317 16

Atlanta 19 44 .302 17

Central Division

W L Pct GB

Cleveland 36 26 .581 —

Indiana 35 27 .565 1

Milwaukee 33 29 .532 3

Detroit 29 34 .460 7 1⁄2

Chicago 21 41 .339 15

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Southwest Division

W L Pct GB

Houston 49 13 .790 —

New Orleans 35 26 .574 13 1/2

San Antonio 36 27 .571 13 1/2

Dallas 19 44 .302 30 1/2

Memphis 18 44 .290 31

Northwest Division

W L Pct GB

Portland 37 26 .587 —

Minnesota 38 28 .576 1/2

Oklahoma City 37 28 .569 1

Denver 35 28 .556 2

Utah 33 30 .524 4

Pacific Division

W L Pct GB

Golden State 49 14 .778 —

L.A. Clippers 33 28 .541 15

L.A. Lakers 28 34 .452 20 1/2

Sacramento 19 44 .302 30

Phoenix 19 45 .297 30 1/2

All times HST

Saturday’s Results

Orlando 107, Memphis 100

Denver 126, Cleveland 117

Miami 105, Detroit 96

Houston 123, Boston 120

L.A. Lakers 116, San Antonio 112

Portland 108, Oklahoma City 100

Utah 98, Sacramento 91

Today’s Games

Phoenix at Atlanta, 10:30 a.m.

Charlotte at Toronto, 1 p.m.

Indiana at Washington, 1 p.m.

New Orleans at Dallas, 2 p.m.

Philadelphia at Milwaukee, 3 p.m.

Brooklyn at L.A. Clippers, 4 p.m.

New York at Sacramento, 4 p.m.

Monday’s Games

Detroit at Cleveland, 2 p.m.

Milwaukee at Indiana, 2 p.m.

Phoenix at Miami, 2:30 p.m.

Boston at Chicago, 3 p.m.

Memphis at San Antonio, 3:30 p.m.

Orlando at Utah, 4 p.m.

Portland at L.A. Lakers, 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday’s Games

Atlanta at Toronto, 2 p.m.

Miami at Washington, 2 p.m.

Philadelphia at Charlotte, 2 p.m.

Houston at Oklahoma City, 3 p.m.

Denver at Dallas, 3:30 p.m.

New York at Portland, 5 p.m.

Brooklyn at Golden State, 5:30 p.m.

New Orleans at L.A. Clippers, 5:30 p.m.