James Harden poured 45 points on the Celtics, leading his team to a 127-113 win in Houston on Thursday night.
For Harden, it was the second straight game of 40+ points and an eighth consecutive game with over 30 points, tying a league record set by Russell Westbrook in November 2016.
The game started out with an all-out Harden blitz, connecting on five threes in the first twelve minutes. The first quarter ended with the Celtics scoring 24 points and Harden with 17. The rest of the team had 18 and the Rockets held an 11-point lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Celtics began to chip away, but the Rockets held them at bay, keeping a double digit lead. However, the lead evaporated at the snap of a finger, or the blow of a whistle, or two, or three. The Rockets were called on three technical fouls in the span of sixty seconds. The first foul came from Chris Paul, who sat his third straight game with a hamstring injury. The second foul came from Mike D’Antoni, and the third came from Clint Capela, in what was likely the most questionable call of the evening.
After Irving sunk all three free throws, the Celtics’ deficit was just five points. By halftime, the deficit was just two points.
In the third quarter, the teams traded blows and the Celtics even found a two-point lead at the 4:22 mark. They held that lead for all of 19 seconds, after Harden knocked one of his nine three-pointers on the night. The Celtics never saw the lead again.
The Rockets took the lead back to six at the end of the third quarter, thanks to a buzzer-beater from Austin Rivers, who scored 10 points off the bench in his second game as a Rocket.
The lead in the fourth quarter ballooned to as high as 15, as the Rockets won the fourth quarter by a score of 35-27. Marcus Morris, who scored 19 points for the Celtics, was ejected late in the fourth quarter to add insult to injury.
Morris’s 19 and Kyrie Irving’s team-high 23 points and 11 assists led the way but it was no match for James Harden and Co.
Harden’s 45 led the way, but the Rockets were able to squeeze out sizable considerations from their supporting cast. Clint Capela continued his recent tear with 24 points and 18 boards. Eric Gordon dropped 20 of his own, and Rivers and Gerald Green had 10 points apiece off the bench.
In CP3’s absence, the team has stepped up. The Rockets are now 3-0 since he went down and the depth for Houston has played some of their best basketball to date. The Rockets are playing inspired basketball and when their injured pieces return, the team will reach its maximum potential.
The Rockets head out to New Orleans on Saturday to take on the Pelicans. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. CT.