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NBA Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, March 18th (All times eastern)

Boston Celtics (36-29) at Houston Rockets (39-25), 8:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The NBA's two hottest teams not based in Miami clash tonight when the Houston Rockets welcome the Boston Celtics to the Toyota Center.

Houston has won six straight games heading into this evening, while Boston is on a five-game run. Both teams are in the thick of the NBA playoff chase, as the Rockets are battling for positioning in the Western Conference while the Celtics are trying to pull away atop a mediocre Atlantic Division.

On Wednesday, David Wesley and Bob Sura finished with 21 points each to lead the Rockets over the struggling Portland Trail Blazers, 108-77, at the Toyota Center.

Sura, who also had six assists, shot 7-of-8 from the field, while Wesley hit 8-of-10 shots for Houston, which shot 51 percent for the contest. Tracy McGrady added 19 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Rockets, who have won seven of their last eight games overall.

Houston is currently tied with Sacramento for fifth in the Western Conference -- two games ahead of seventh-place Memphis.

The Rockets, who have won two straight home games, will visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Boston, meanwhile, is coming off Wednesday's 110-109 nailbiter against visiting Toronto. Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker tied for team-high scoring honors, and rookie Tony Allen netted the game-winning basket.

Pierce went 7-of-15 from the floor to end with 24 points and added nine rebounds for Boston, which improved to 9-1 since re-acquiring Walker at the trade deadline.

Walker, who is averaging 19.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg since the deal, also finished with 24 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists for the Celtics, who now lead the Atlantic Division by 4 1/2 games over Philadelphia.

Allen added 16 points, including what proved to be the game-winning basket with a little more than one minute remaining in the game.

The Celtics, who have won three straight on the road, kick off a three-game trip tonight and will visit New Orleans on Saturday.

Houston defeated Boston, 97-94, at the FleetCenter on January 31 and has won two straight and seven of the last eight meetings.

03/18 10:18:22 ET

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