The Celtics (44-20) had a four-game winning streak snapped Saturday night with a 123-120 road loss to the streaking Houston Rockets, who posted their 15th consecutive victory. The game was a role reversal from the first clash of the teams, when the Celtics rallied from 26 down for an unlikely victory.
This time, Boston were on the receiving end of a comeback as Houston erased a six-point deficit in the final 4:01, closing the game with a 16-7 burst. Marcus Morris scored 21 points to key a spectacular effort from Boston's reserves, who totaled 67 points on 25-of-44 shooting, but Marcus Smart's potential game-tying 3-pointer as time expired failed to go down.
While going from playing one of the league's best to one of the worst may look like a respite, the Celtics have dropped five straight and 13 of their last 15 at the United Center since a 106-80 victory December 12, 2009.
Chicago (21-41) stormed to a 108-85 rout December 11, and they are coming off another victory after beating Dallas 108-100 on Friday night to end a five-game losing streak. Bobby Portis had six of his 23 points off the bench in a decisive 14-2 fourth quarter spurt for the Bulls, who limited the Mavericks to 15 points in the final period.
The Bulls have not won back-to-back games since a three-game run from January 10-15, and their next defeat will mark their first losing season since going 33-49 in 2007/08.