Houston Rockets Riding High as They Take on the Boston Celtics

John LewisSenior Writer IMarch 18, 2008

The Boston Celtics edged the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, and did it without star guard Ray Allen, and it's likely the C's will have Allen available when they take on the Houston Rockets tonight.

The Rockets own the second longest win streak in NBA history, at 22 games, but more importantly, they take over the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference standings. 

The key to the turnaround of a sub-.500 team as of New Year's Day has been its defense.  Houston's defensive efficiency mark has jumped to 98.1 points allowed per game, putting the Rockets far in front of the every team except the Boston Celtics, who remain No. 1 by a mile.

During the streak, the Rockets' numbers have been even better, allowing just 95.1 points per game.

The anchor of the defense is 6-foot-8-inch forward Shane Battier. He is both relentless and incredibly smart, a combination which makes him as tough to score against as any wing player in the NBA.

On Sunday, Battier harassed Kobe Bryant into an 11-for-33 shooting night that included just four free throw attempts and two assists. It was the key to Houston's 104-92 win over the Lakers.