James Harden had 34 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists, but he struggled mightily in the second half, missing shot after shot in finishing just 7-27 from the fileld. He was also called for two highly questionable off-the-ball offensive fouls on consecutive possessions with under 10 seconds left to hand the game to the Celtics after the Rockets dominated the first half of play.
Initially, Houston rediscovered their defensive prowess in the first half, which sparked them to a big 62-38 lead at the break. They held the Celtics to 39 percent shooting at the half and forced 12 turnovers, and James Harden poured in 24 of his points before intermission.
But the Celtics stopped switching on Harden and cranked up the defensive intensity in the second half, which rattled the Rockets offensively. In addition to Harden’s second-half shooting woes, they also got sloppy with the ball, finishing the game with 16 turnovers.
The Celtics used a 12-0 run in the third quarter off of 10 straight Houston misses to get the game within a manageable 13-points, and they slowly chipped away throughout the fourth, which eventually led to the calls on Harden and an Al Horford five-footer to win it for the Celtics.
In addition to The Beard’s line, the Rockets also got 24 points from Eric Gordon, though he also struggled with his shot, mostly in the second half, going just 9-23 from the field. The Rockets also got 11 points from Trevor Ariza and 10 from Nene to round out the Houston players in double figures.
The Rockets got next to nothing from their second unit, getting just 10 total points off their bench, a function of three major rotation members sitting out with injury.
They shot just 37.5 percent as a team and were 14-43 from beyond the arc, completely nullifying the good work they did as a team on the defensive end.
The Celtics were led by Kyrie Irving, who scored 26 points, and they also got 19 from Jayson Tatum, 13 from Marcus Smart, who also grabbed 6 rebounds, dished 5 assists, grabbed 2 steals and blocked 3 shots. He was also the flopper... I mean, drew the two charges on Harden to close out the game. Terry Rozier also hit some big shots for Boston in the fourth finishing with 13 points, and Marcus Morris had 10.
The Rockets now fall to 25-8, and they have another tough road contest on tap tomorrow night against the Washington Wizards, so they’ll need to shake this one off quickly if they don’t want to see their fifth straight defeat.
Thanks, Charles Barkley (who jinxed the Rockets by declaring the game o-v-e-r at halftime).