BOSTON — Center Dwight Howard scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and guards James Harden and Jeremy Lin each had 16 points as the Houston Rockets overcame a sluggish start to hand the Boston Celtics their ninth straight loss, 104-92 Monday night.
Houston forward Chandler Parsons returned from a three-game absence to score 14 points. Forward Terrence Jones chipped in with 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Rockets, who won for the fourth time in five games.
Guard Avery Bradley scored 14 of his 24 points in the first quarter for Boston, mired in its longest losing streak since dropping 18 in a row from Jan. 7-Feb. 11, 2007.
Guard Jerryd Bayless netted 17 points for the Celtics, and forward Brandon Bass added 14.
Despite controlling the first quarter and jumping out to an eight-point lead, the Celtics couldn’t keep up with the Rockets’ up-tempo offense the rest of the way.
Boston also had no answer for Howard, who dominated inside in the third quarter, scoring 12 points as the Rockets (25-14) turned a nine-point halftime lead into a 20-point cushion late in the period.
Bradley kept Boston (13-26) in the game with 10 third-quarter points, and the Celtics closed within 13 early in the fourth following six consecutive points from Bass.
Bayless sizzled down the stretch, too, singlehandedly giving the Celtics a chance with two three-point plays and a long jumper that brought Boston within 97-90 with less than three minutes to play.
Howard preserved the lead by hitting six of 12 from the free-throw line, and back-to-back layups from Lin and Jones helped the Rockets fend off the feisty Celtics.
Bradley netted nine points in the first 5:26 of the game, and he later drained two 3-pointers as part of a 17-6 run that put the Celtics up 21-12 with 2:39 to play in the first. With Bradley on the bench for the first seven minutes of the second, Houston outscored Boston 16-8, spurred by nine points from Parsons, to knot the score at 35.
The Rockets never looked back, using a 14-2 run to take a 52-43 lead into the break.
NOTES: F Jeff Green, the Celtics’ leading scorer at 16.1 points per game, was limited to four points on 2-of-10 shooting. … Houston entered the game tied for third in the league at 105.3 points per game, even with the Los Angeles Clippers and trailing only the Portland Trail Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. … In the teams’ only other meeting this season on Nov. 19, the Rockets raced out to an 18-1 lead en route to a 109-85 victory. … During pregame introductions, Lin was the lone Houston player to be cheered. Lin is a Harvard graduate. … New England WR Julian Edelman, who on Saturday helped the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts to reach their third consecutive AFC championship game, was sitting courtside and received a resounding ovation when shown on the video board. … The Celtics assisted on eight of 12 field goals in the first quarter, shooting 44.4 percent (12 of 27) to take a 27-19 lead.