If the Celtics truly stole a win from James Harden and the Rockets when these teams first met at TD Garden back on Dec. 28 earlier this season, you can consider them even after Saturday night’s national TV 123-120 Rockets win at Houston’s Toyota Center.
Looking to snap Houston’s 14-game winning streak, the Celtics played about as perfect a road game as a team can when going against the best team in the West by jumping out to a two-point edge through 12 minutes, and extending it to eight by halftime.
And by the end of the third quarter, with a three-point lead and successfully matching each bucket made at the other end of the court, the Green were rolling on the backs of their bench.
It was through 36 minutes of action that Boston had 45 points from just four members of their bench, while the starters totaled just 44.
That held throughout the game, too, as Marcus Morris led all Boston scorers with 21 points in 33 minutes, while Greg Monroe finished second with 18 points in 19 minutes. And the bench as a whole finished with a season-high 67 points and makes on 25 of their 44 attempts (56.8 field goal percentage).
“I thought we were great off the bench,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said after the loss. “We’re gonna need those guys — and then some — to continue to help us.”
But in the fourth, the Rockets’ defensive efforts and some self-destructive tendencies from Stevens’ starters clearly saw these teams trade places.
Hearing footsteps and forcing passes into turnovers, the Celtics seemed routinely crushed by the Houston supporting cast of Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza in the clutch. These turnovers truly hurt the C’s given the fact that they once again shut Harden down (6-for-18 shooting, and just 13-for-45 against the Celtics this season), and held Chris Paul to just 15 points, seven assists, and obvious foul trouble in 35 minutes.
It only got worse when a sprawled out Al Horford was unable to call timeout — and without his teammates or Celtics coach Brad Steven successfully (read as: audibly) alerting the referees for a timeout — and forced yet another turnover in a close game.
And with some more misses — including some gut-wrenching Kyrie Irving free throw intentional miss attempts that went awry (one went in and the other was whistled for not touching the rim) — it all compounded into one rough ending for the Celtics.
Which seemed even worse when Marcus Smart’s potential game-tying buzzer-beater (shot from an impossible angle) was just inches away from what would have been a downright incredible bucket.
“We turned the ball over a couple of times. We were wild open a couple of times. We missed a couple of layups,” noted Stevens. “Al [Horford] was wide open on his, you take that one hundred times out of one hundred. He had a great move down the paint with his right hand, five feet away. Smart was wide open on the jump shot. Kyrie had the layup that somehow didn’t go in, I have no idea. But you take those shots all day long.”
The loss put an end to Boston’s four-game winning streak.
Full article @ Rockets 123, Celtics 120: Rockets deliver some payback
Source: GreenStreet Blog