Rapid Reaction: C's 97, Rockets 92 (OT)

BOSTON -- Rapid reaction following the Boston Celtics' 97-92 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday at the TD Garden.


Celtics forward Paul Pierce scored a game-high 30 points, making 11 of his 12 free throws, to go along with six rebounds and two assists, while Ray Allen chipped in 21 points, with seven coming in the fourth quarter. Rajon Rondo chipped in nine points to go along with a game-high 12 assists, and Garnett added a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds. Houston was paced by the duo of Kyle Lowry (18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and Luis Scola (18 points,14 rebounds), while the Rockets' bench contributed 23 points.


The Rockets opened up a 10-point lead (80-70) with 5:33 remaining in the fourth quarter, but a 14-2 run by the Celtics, built upon some strong defensive play, was capped off by a Ray Allen 3-pointer in the left corner, that put the Celtics up 84-82 with 35.4 seconds left. After Boston secured another defensive stop, Rajon Rondo lost control of the ball on a breakaway layup, which opened the door for a Goran Dragic right corner jumper to tie things up at 84 with three seconds to play. The Celtics got the ball to Ray Allen, who dribbled just past the right elbow and secured an open look, but missed his shot as time expired, leading the Celtics to overtime for the second straight game.


Kevin Garnett drilled a right wing jumper with 3:55 remaining in overtime, giving the Celtics a two-point edge, and Paul Pierce followed that up with a leaning jumper on the left side, while drawing a foul. He converted the free throw for a 91-86 lead with just over three minutes left. Kyle Lowry sank consecutive layups for Houston, but Pierce responded with two free throws and a finger roll of his own, giving the Celtics a 95-92 edge with 47.5 seconds left. Ray Allen polished things off with two free throws with just under 20 seconds remaining, securing Boston's five-point win.


Just days after C's coach Doc Rivers committed to a rotation of nine players, he had to incorporate a 10th in reserve center Greg Stiemsma after Brandon Bass was forced to depart the game early to get his left ankle re-taped. Stiemsma promptly checked in and proceeded to play 12 quality first-half minutes, scoring eight points on 4-of-6 shooting to go along with one rebound.


The Rockets entered Tuesday's game having been out-rebounded in 10 consecutive contests, the franchise's longest streak since the 1982-83 season, but won the battle of the boards against the Celtics by a final tally of 57-38.


It wasn't pretty, but the Celtics will take another win -- their fifth straight -- as they remain undefeated since the All-Star break. Their latest comeback attempt proved fruitful, as they hurtled past a quality Houston team, keeping the team resolve high on the heels of their dramatic 115-111 overtime win against the New York Knicks on Sunday. More importantly, the Celtics move to within a game of the idle Philadelphia 76ers in the Atlantic Divsion standings, with a matchup between the division rivals on tap for Wednesday. That game becomes that much more crucial, as both teams are vying for the highest possible seed in the East with the playoffs drawing ever closer.