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Rockets Host Celtics In Another Must-Win Game

The Houston Rockets resume a six-game homestand Friday against Eastern Conference heavyweight Boston.

The Rockets improved to 2-1 on their residency Wednesday when Kevin Martin finished with 21 points and Chuck Hayes grabbed 17 rebounds as Houston topped the Bobcats, 94-78.

Hayes also dished out seven assists and added nine points for Houston, which has won two in a row and is in the 10th spot in the West, two games behind Memphis for the eighth and final postseason berth. Chase Budinger added 19 points while Patrick Patterson posted 12 points and 10 rebounds for the victors.

"The chemistry is great right now within our team," Budinger said. "We are playing well. We are winning games and it is a great opportunity for me to get in the starting line up and I'm just trying to help the team win games."

Power forward Luis Scola, Houston's second-leading scorer, missed his fourth straight game versus Charlotte with a sore left knee, and his status remains iffy.

"It's not fun but that's just the way it is," Scola told the Rockets' website. "I'm just trying to get it better and try to speed up the process as much as we can and hopefully be ready to play soon."

The Celtics, who are opening up a three-game road trip tonight, are in a back- and-forth battle with Chicago for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. A 92-80 win over Indiana in Beantown on Wednesday in which Paul Pierce scored 20 points and Jeff Green added 19 saw Boston reclaim a share of the East lead.

That was short-lived, however, as the Bulls answered with a win over New Jersey on Thursday and are now one-half game ahead of the C's.

Ray Allen had 12 points and Nenad Krstic supplied 11 points with seven rebounds against the Pacers for the Celtics, who entered Wednesday having dropped three of their previous four games. Delonte West, meanwhile, played 16 minutes in his first game back after a sprained ankle sidelined him for eight games.

"[Boston] is really tough to beat," Pacers forward Danny Granger said. "They've played together for a while and know what they're doing."

The Celtics have won four straight and six of their last seven trips to Houston. The Rockets, however, topped the C's in Beantown earlier this season.

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