HOUSTON --- The 22-game winning streak is over. Now the Houston Rockets have to make sure they reach the postseason in the wild Western Conference.
Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics stopped the Rockets' remarkable run Tuesday night, pulling away in the second half for a 94-74 victory.
Garnett scored 22 points and Paul Pierce added 20 as Boston handed Houston its first loss since a 97-89 defeat to Utah on Jan. 27. Since then, the Rockets put together the second-longest streak in NBA history, which ended 11 victories shy of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 33 in a row.
"Our names will be mentioned there with Hall of Fame people," Rafer Alston said. "We have something to tell our kids."
Maybe so, but the Rockets are still a long way from even securing a playoff spot. The loss dropped them into a first-place tie with the Los Angeles Lakers atop the West, with New Orleans a half-game back.
The Rockets played the Hornets on Wednesday. With ninth-place Denver only six games behind the Rockets, nothing is assured.
"We've still got a heck of a lot to play for," Shane Battier said. "This loss will be forgotten pretty quickly."
Boston has no such concerns with a five-game lead on second-place Detroit in the East. The Celtics beat San Antonio 93-91 on Monday night and came to Houston with a businesslike approach.
"There wasn't really a lot of talking on the bus last night after the win," Garnett said. "We got on the plane, it was real subtle. There wasn't a lot of talking and I know when we're like that, we're focused."
It was Houston's second loss in 28 games and its fourth since Jan. 2 and first since Houston lost Yao Ming (season-ending foot injury).
The Rockets scored a season-low 34 points in the second half on 11-for-33 shooting.
"It's not disappointing," Tracy McGrady said. "It's a hell of a team over there. They outplayed us. I've never seen a defense like that. I mean, if they play defense like that, night in and night out, the NBA is in trouble because that was defense at its finest."
Luis Scola scored 15 for Houston, which had also won 15 in a row at home. Only the 1985-86 Rockets, who won 20 in a row at The Summit, had a longer home-court streak in franchise history.