NEW YORK // Ray Allen scored 11 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as the Boston Celtics sent the Houston Rockets crashing to their first loss of the season with a 103-99 victory. Allen went 11-of-15 from the field with two three-pointers before fouling out in the final minute for Boston, who prevented Houston from getting off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1996-97.
Kendrick Perkins scored 15 points and Kevin Garnett added 14 and 11 rebounds for Boston, who saw a 15-point second-quarter lead cancelled out by a 25-4 run by the Rockets. Tracy McGrady had 26 points to lead Houston, but missed the second of three free throws with 10 seconds left that would have cut the deficit to a point. Raja Bell scored 22 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 18 to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 114-86 win over the New Jersey Nets.
Bell was 7-of-9 from the field, including 6-of-6 from the arc. He was not the only one with a hot shooting touch as the Suns shot 77 per cent in the first half to build a 10-point lead. Amare Stoudemire scored 14 points and Steve Nash and Leandro Barbosa both added 12 for the Suns. Vince Carter scored 19 points and Yi Jianlian added 15 for the Nets. Phoenix ended up shooting 63 per cent (43-of-68) from the field and New Jersey just couldn't keep up. The Suns extended the lead to 92-77 after three and extinguished any thoughts of a Nets comeback by outscoring them 22-9 in the fourth.
The Suns shot 67 per cent (12-for-18) from the arc but did keep the Nets hanging around for a while by committing 20 turnovers. With the game all but decided, the crowd turned its focus to election updates during timeouts. The New Jersey crowd came down in the Barack Obama camp, cheering each time he won a state. Nash added 11 assists for a double-double and Grant Hill scored 11 points and Matt Barnes had 10 to give Phoenix seven players in double figures.
Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points and seven rebounds to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 98-81 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs. Jason Terry added 29 points and Josh Howard collected 14 and 12 rebounds for Dallas, who used a 24-9 run late in the second quarter to open up an 18-point half-time lead. Tony Parker scored 22 points for San Antonio, who were out-rebounded 45-34 and shot just 42 per cent from the field.
Tim Duncan added 19 and 15 rebounds as the Spurs dropped their first three contests to open a season for the first time since 1973 when they started 0-4 as members of the ABA. * PA Sport