Celtics can't snap Rockets winning streak in close contest

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In a league dominated by fast-paced offense and talented scorers, the Boston Celtics serve as a good reminder that defense still wins championships.

With the ball on his own base line and with just over two seconds remaining in the game, Celtics' Marcus Morris nearly threw the ball the length of the court towards his teammate Marcus Smart, who was positioned on the left side of the Rockets' three-point line. However, their teammates were more than happy to pick up the slack. Just in the first-half, they attempted a combined 33 three-pointers.

Surprisingly though, Boston - in its four game winning streak since the All-Star break - has seen a surge in scoring, averaging almost 119 points. But defense was the deciding factor in this one.

The critical moment came when Trevor Ariza hit a three-pointer to tie the game up at 115-115 with 1:33 to play. With 2.8 seconds left, Irving missed on objective again, but he didn't hit the rim to turn the ball over.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket while Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) defends at Toyota Center. But then a bad pass stolen by Ariza gave Houston the ball and made things start to look a little bleak for the Celtics.

SAN ANTONIO - Lonzo Ball hit a career-best six 3-pointers, Julius Randle had 25 points and Los Angeles rallied in the final two minutes to beat San Antonio.

UP NEXT: The Celtics (44-20) will play the second of a three-game road trip Monday night against the Chicago Bulls (21-41).

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Since returning from the All-Star break, the Celtics had won four straight, while beating opponents by an average of 15 points before Saturday night's loss to the Rockets.

Kyrie Irving raced down court and made a quick layup to pull back with two but with only 7.9 seconds to play.

In the end, Houston was up by three when Marcus Smart took a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer, but he missed. "Tonight definitely proved to us that we can win in that style of basketball, a grind-it-out type of game".

Detroit's Blake Griffin had 31 points and six assists while Andre Drummond added 22 points and 18 rebounds, but the Pistons fell to the Heat 105-96.

If you'd like to see some more mind-blowing wizardry off the dribble, check out Kyrie Irving's collection of best plays. The team shot 62% from the field and 60% from three en route to a season-high 134 points.

"I just thought they maximized more possessions than we did", Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "That's a very good team over there". The win is the fourth straight for the Celtics and keeps them a half-game behind the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Eastern Conference. But they still have a seven-game lead on the Cleveland Cavaliers for the No. 2 spot.

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 night to extend their winning streak to a season-high 15 games.