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Rockets turn tables on Boston
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Struggling NBA champions Boston Celtics suffered their third straight defeat after Houston Rockets edged them 89-85 at home on Wednesday.

Houston guard Von Wafer made a go-ahead three-pointer with 43 seconds left and Yao Ming added two of his team-high 26 in the final seconds to clinch victory.

The Celtics entered the contest having lost five road games in their last seven contests, but the holders could not find any solace at home either.

"In our last timeout, you could see it in our guys' eyes. Like 'shoot, we're going to lose a home game,'" Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters. "It bothered them. I was thinking, 'that's a good thing'."

Paul Pierce led the way with 26 points for the Celtics (29-8), who scored a season-low 11 points in the fourth quarter to let the Rockets snap a three-game slide and avoid losing six successive road games for the first time since 2001-02.

Playing without shooting guard Tracy McGrady, who has played intermittently because of a knee injury, Houston relied on 19 points from point guard Aaron Brooks and 17 from big offseason acquisition Ron Artest.

Artest had missed his last two games with an ankle ailment and the team was without forward Shane Battier, who has missed the last five games because of a foot injury.

Houston (22-15) began the season as title contenders but have yet to display that level of play, beset by injuries besides disappointing starts to the season from leaders McGrady and Artest.

"When you launch a rocket, you will not go (from) zero to 100 miles (per hour) in one second," Yao said. "We need to turn it up. But when is the start?

"Every game can be a start."

Boston blazed to a franchise-best 27-2 start this year including a 19-game winning streak, but have sputtered to six defeats in eight games starting with a Christmas Day setback against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kevin Garnett scored 18 points with eight rebounds as the Celtics took a 74-71 advantage through three quarters before surrendering the game.

Cavaliers 111, Bobcats 81

At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 21 points before grabbing an early seat on the bench as Cleveland warmed up for its highly anticipated matchup with Boston.

Mo Williams added 15 points to help the Cavaliers improve to 18-0 at home.

On Friday, the Celtics will arrive for a game between the Eastern Conference's premier powers, a rematch of last season's heated seven-game conference semifinal and a possible tease of what could come this spring.

Boston holds a 1-0 edge this season after beating Cleveland 90-85 at home in its opener, when the Celtics raised their 17th title banner.

Raymond Felton led Charlotte with 15 points.

Lakers 114, Warriors 106

At Oakland, California, Pau Gasol had 33 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, Kobe Bryant added 21 points and Los Angeles beat Golden State for its seventh win in eight games.

Andrew Bynum had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, coming off a home loss to New Orleans. Jamal Crawford had 25 points and nine assists for Golden State.

Pacers 113, Suns 100

At Phoenix, Danny Granger hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and finished with a career-high 37 points as Indiana downed Phoenix.

Granger scored at least 35 points for the third straight game. He had 35 and 36 in his previous two games.

Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Shaquille O'Neal missed the game because of back spasms.

Raptors 99, Wizards 93

At Washington, Andrea Bargnani scored 25 points, and Chris Bosh added 18 for Toronto, down to nine players after trading Hassan Adams to the Los Angeles Clippers in a money-saving move.

Bargnani went 4-for-5 on 3s, and 4-for-4 on other field-goal attempts. Bosh scored half his points in the fourth quarter and had eight rebounds and six assists.

Antawn Jamison scored a season-high 32 points for Washington.

Magic 106, Hawks 102

At Atlanta, Dwight Howard had 23 points and 19 rebounds for Orlando in a matchup of the top two teams in the Southeast Division.

Orlando nearly squandered a 21-point advantage, catching a huge break when Mike Bibby missed a breakaway layup that should have pulled Atlanta within two points with just under 1 1/2 minutes remaining. Josh Smith led Atlanta with 21 points.

Nets 100, Grizzlies 89

At East Rutherford, New Jersey, Vince Carter had 25 points and a season-high 12 assists, and New Jersey won its third straight at home.

Despite playing without leading scorer Devin Harris (sore right hamstring), the Nets raced to an early double-digit lead, kept it for most of the way, and never trailed in a game for the first time this season.

Yi Jianlian added 20 points for the Nets. Memphis rookie O.J. Mayo scored 26 points, and Rudy Gay had 23.

(Agencies via China Daily January 9, 2009)


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