LaFrentz powers Celtics' win vs. Rockets

BOSTON (AP) -- Raef LaFrentz feels healthy, and it showed.

LaFrentz was 7-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half and scored 27 of his 32 points in the opening 24 minutes to lead the Boston Celtics to a 102-82 win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.

LaFrentz, who had his 2003-04 season cut short following right knee surgery in December 2003, matched his career high for points, added eight rebounds and finished 7-for-9 on 3-point attempts.

"If I'm healthy, I know I can shoot the ball," he said. "If you don't have your legs, you can't shoot the ball."

LaFrentz admitted that he wasn't confident last season.

"Anytime you go through an injury, that takes away some confidence you have in your ability and in yourself," he said.

The 6-foot-11 center thrives when the team is moving the ball around.

"One of the things we've always said: 'If Raef gets a lot of attempts, that means the ball is moving extremely well,'" Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Now, obviously, he was making them too."

Ricky Davis and Paul Pierce scored 19 points apiece, and Mark Blount had 17 for Boston (3-3).

Stromile Swift had a season-high 17 points and Tracy McGrady
and Yao Ming 14 each for the Rockets (2-4).

The Celtics held double-digits leads at the end of every quarter and were hardly tested. The Rockets, who beat New Jersey on Saturday, appeared worn down from the start.

"They were much more assertive, aggressive on the boards, on every loose ball, they were just playing harder than we were tonight," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

LaFrentz, averaging just 9.2 points per game, connected on four 3-pointers in the opening 9:16 that helped Boston open a 24-12 lead. He hit three 3-pointers in the final 3:35 of the second quarter that gave the Celtics a 55-44 lead at the half.

LaFrentz finally missed his first 3-point attempt 5:30 into the third quarter.

The Rockets closed it 57-49 on McGrady's basket early in the third quarter and stayed within 13 points until the Celtics broke it open with a 18-7 run to close the quarter. Boston led 84-63 after three.

"LaFrentz got off to such a great start because of our mistakes," McGrady said.

The only suspense the rest of the game was whether LaFrentz would establish a career-high, which he had a chance for with 3:29 to play. He missed a free throw that would have completed a three-point play. LaFrentz came out with 2:31 remaining.

Boston's bench, led by Davis, was cheering for LaFrentz to get his career high.

"No, I had no idea," LaFrentz said with a smile when asked if he knew he was close.

LaFrentz scored 32 points with Denver on April 18, 2001.

Game notes
LaFrentz fell one short of the NBA record for 3-pointers in a half, held by five players. McGrady was the last, doing it on Jan. 26, 2004. ... Van Gundy talked about how slow his team was before the game. He was proved correct, especially in the game's opening minutes. ... Pierce closed the second quarter with an off-balance runner at the buzzer.