HOUSTON -- Even the Houston Rockets acknowledge they've had some good luck during their 21-game winning streak. They are getting more heading into their biggest regular-season game in years.
Pau Gasol will sit out with a sprained left ankle when the Rockets play the Los Angeles Lakers today for first place in the Western Conference. Gasol was injured in Friday's loss to New Orleans and left the arena on crutches.
X-rays were negative, but the Lakers said the 7-foot Gasol will miss at least the next three games. Gasol has averaged 19 points and eight rebounds since coming to Los Angeles from Memphis.
"Obviously, we can't run as many low-post opportunities as we had when Pau was here," Kobe Bryant said Saturday.
Earlier in the Rockets' streak, now the second-longest in NBA history, they got to play New Orleans without David West (sprained ankle) and Dallas without Dirk Nowitzki (one-game suspension). They've also beaten 12 opponents with losing records.
They aren't apologizing for anything.
"I take solace in the fact that we are the luckiest team in, maybe, the history of NBA basketball," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "If that's our distinction, that's fine by us."
Of course, Houston has been playing without Yao Ming, sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot on Feb. 26. That hasn't mattered yet -- the Rockets have won nine in a row without him.
The Rockets still have won 30 of their last 33 games, vaulting from the No. 10 spot in the West to a tie for first in two months.
"It's really unexplainable," said Tracy McGrady, who's averaged 26 points since Yao went out. "This is an inspirational season for this team. If we can keep it going, it would be one of the finer accomplishments of my career."
CELTICS 99, BUCKS 77, at Milwaukee -- Boston managed an easy victory without one of its three stars, beating Milwaukee as injured guard Ray Allen sat in a suit at the end of the bench. Kevin Garnett scored 19 to lead the Celtics.
NETS 117, JAZZ 115, at East Rutherford, N.J. -- Richard Jefferson made a running jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining to lead New Jersey past Utah. Jefferson led the Nets with 27 points.
TRAIL BLAZERS 107, TIMBERWOLVES 96, at Portland, Ore. -- Brandon Roy had 25 points and eight assists, and despite earning the first technical foul of his two-year career, he helped Portland sweep the season series with Minnesota.
76ERS 103, SPURS 96, at Philadelphia -- Andre Miller scored a season-high 32 points to lead Philadelphia past San Antonio for its third consecutive sparkling victory. The 76ers already knocked off Detroit and Chicago on the road.
MAGIC 122, PACERS 111, at Orlando, Fla. -- Hedo Turkoglu scored 27 points, including nine in the final five minutes, to help Orlando pull away and clinch a playoff berth with a victory over Indiana.
WIZARDS 119, CLIPPERS 109 (OT), at Washington -- Antawn Jamison scored 36 points, including three key free throws to send the game into overtime, to lead Washington past Los Angeles.