The Celtics have now been beaten on their home floor twice in a row, which can't be a good precedent for a team angling for playoff position in its final eight games. The C's have just two games left in their longest homestand of the season, and they're running out of time to right the ship and prove they can win in the TD Garden. Their next test will come from the Houston Rockets, whose Western Conference playoff chances are hanging by a thread as they take the Garden floor Friday night.
Friday, April 2, 7:30 p.m. ET (CSNE)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
Celtics (47-27, first place in Atlantic Division, fourth place in Eastern Conference)
Rockets (37-37, fourth place in Southwest Division, 10th place in Western Conference)
Since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived in Boston three summers ago, the Celtics have won four of their five meetings with the Rockets, with the lone loss coming in Boston on Jan. 7, 2009. Most recently, the C's got the best of the Rockets in Houston just two weeks ago, winning 94-87 behind 26 points from Paul Pierce. The Celtics have proven over the years that they own this matchup.
All right, here's the deal: To eliminate Houston from playoff contention, San Antonio's magic number is down to one. Just one. So either a Rockets loss or a Spurs win on Friday night will be the end of Houston's bid for a playoff spot. It's a sad story, too, as the Rockets began the season with a great deal of promise before Yao Ming went down and Tracy McGrady demanded a trade. This season has since gone downhill, and it's on its last legs now. While the Celtics duke it out for the East's No. 3 playoff seed, the Rockets will be playing for their very lives.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins
Point guard: Aaron Brooks
Shooting guard: Jermaine Taylor
Small forward: Trevor Ariza
Power forward: Luis Scola
Center: Chuck Hayes
The Celtics are 17-12 against Western Conference opponents this season.
They shoot 48.2 percent from the field as a team, fourth-best in the NBA.
Ray Allen is shooting 90.6 percent from the free-throw line this season, third in the league behind Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups.
Rajon Rondo has an NBA-best 176 steals. The only active players that have had more steals in a single season are Chris Paul (217, 216), Baron Davis (191), Shawn Marion (185), Kobe Bryant (181), Jason Kidd (179) and LeBron James (177).
Kendrick Perkins is second in the NBA in field-goal percentage, his 60.3 percent just barely trailing the 60.7 percent of Dwight Howard.
Paul Pierce finished March with 18.6 points per game, a sharp increase from the 11.7 per game he averaged in February.
Kevin Garnett has averaged 20.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.4 steals in his career against the Rockets.
The Rockets are 16-20 on the road. None of the West's eight playoff contenders have fewer road wins.
They have attempted 1,659 3's, fourth-most of any NBA team.
Aaron Brooks leads the NBA in 3-pointers made (184) and attempted (478).
Luis Scola leads the Rockets with 8.8 rebounds per game.
Jermaine Taylor had career highs in rebounds (10) and steals (four) on Wednesday against San Antonio, starting in place of the injured Kevin Martin.
Trevor Ariza is shooting 38.6 percent from the field this season, a career low.
Chuck Hayes has averaged 5.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in his career against the Celtics.
Paul Pierce returned to action Wednesday after suffering two shoulder stingers earlier this week. He is now at full strength.
Kendrick Perkins also returned Wednesday after missing two games with tendinitis in his left knee.
Kevin Martin missed Wednesday's game against San Antonio with left shoulder soreness. He is questionable for Friday.
Shane Battier is out with a sprained left MCL.
Jared Jeffries is out with a strained left Achilles.
Yao Ming underwent foot surgery in the fall and has missed the entire season.
In 2008, the Celtics beat the Pacers 92-77 behind 20 points and 11 rebounds from Kevin Garnett. It is their 60th win of the season, as the team reaches that plateau for the first time since 1986. The 2007-08 Celtics go on to win the franchise's 17th championship banner.
"I thought we were playing Michael [expletive] Jordan tonight, the way he was getting the whistle. [Kevin] Durant damn near shot more free throws than our whole team."
–Kevin Garnett, on the officiating in the Celtics' loss to Kevin Durant and the Thunder on Wednesday night
It was a foul loss for Boston against OKC.
Kevin Durant couldn't be stopped.
The C's pinned this one on the refs.
The Rockets couldn't handle the San Antonio Spurs.
Luis Scola looks ahead to the summer.
Aaron Brooks works on his defense.
Shaquille O'Neal practices with the Cavaliers again.
Kenyon Martin plans a return in Denver.
Jerry Colangelo gets to work on Team USA.
The Rockets are fighting for their lives, and that's not easy to do when your roster is banged up and your lineup is stretched thin. The Rockets are going to fight this one down to the wire — they don't have a choice.
The Celtics will need 48 minutes of solid basketball to get the win in this one, as they're facing a team that won't give up with its season hanging in the balance. A smart, balanced, team-oriented game will be crucial for the Celtics in their quest to snap a two-game losing streak at the TD Garden.
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