In a frantic final minute of action that featured a flagrant one on James Harden, a sprained ankle for Eric Gordon, a tackle of Montrezl Harrell and ultimately a ball-don’t-lie miss at the buzzer by Al Horford, the Rockets managed to hang on and defeat the Celtics 107-106 at the Toyota Center to move to 14-7 on the season.
James Harden finished with 37 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals, but also committed 10 turnovers, including a huge one that resulted in a flagrant one with just 15 seconds left and the Rockets up 107 - 104.
The play was initially called a common foul, but was changed to the flagrant after a review by the officials.
The ensuing two free throws by Marcus Smart brought Boston to within a single point, and after a first miss and an out of bounds on the Rockets, the Celtics used an uncalled tackle of Montrezl Harrell to clear an open lane for Al Horford to drive to the bucket. Thankfully, the basketball gods saw Trez get pulled down, the ball rightfully rimmed out, and the Rockets walked away with a hard-fought victory.
In the midst of the finish, Eric Gordon was stepped on by Patrick Beverley, which resulted in a sprained ankle, and though he was initially walking under his own power, the injury bears watching in the coming days.
In addition to Harden’s big night scoring, the Rockets also received 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 threes from Trevor Ariza, who was playing with an injured back, 19 points and 4 triples from Gordon and 11 points and 9 rebounds from Clint Capela.
The Rockets got very little frontcourt production outside of Capela, as Harrell, Ryan Anderson, Nene and Sam Dekker combined for just 15 total points and 11 total rebounds between them, although Harrell did play some very tight defense down the stretch.
Anderson, in particular, struggled after several hot games, as he shot 0-6 from the field and scored just 2 points. The Rockets will really be able to utilize Donatas Motiejunas on these nights when the rest of the frontcourt mostly struggles.
Houston played pretty good defense overall, holding the Celtics to just 42.9 shooting from the field, and they also outrebounded Boston 46-42. The Celtics countered by playing pretty good defense themselves, holding the Rockets to 44.7 percent shooting, and at times seriously disrupting the Rockets’ offensive flow.
The end result was a back and forth contest that saw the Rockets lead for most of the first half, the Celtics lead for most of the second, a gallant Houston comeback in the fourth and the climactic finish down the stretch.
The Celtics were led by 21 points from Horford, 20 from Isaiah Thomas and 16 points and 10 boards from Avery Bradley. They fall to 12-9 on the year.
The Rockets have now won three in a row and stay at the Toyota Center to battle the Lakers on Wednesday night. They’ll be looking for revenge on the team that defeated them on opening night.