The game was close throughout with both teams never seeing a double-digit lead, but the Celtics were in the driver’s seat for majority of the contest. However, the Rockets managed a late 12-5 rally in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to secure the win.
A major turning point in the game came with three minutes left in the fourth quarter where Kyrie Irving missed a layup that went in and out. The ensuing possession ended in a P.J. Tucker corner three. The five-point swing made it a three-point deficit as opposed to an eight-point deficit. In a three-point game, the turn of events decided the game. The basketball gods were certainly shining down on the Rockets tonight.
Trevor Ariza also came up huge in the final minutes for Houston. Ariza scored 21 in the whole game, but his five points at the end were the most crucial. He hit a game-tying three with 1:33 left to go after a Tucker steal and then he came up with a steal on his own the next possession and it led to a go-ahead layup that put the Rockets in front for good. Tonight was the night where the old Ariza returned. If Ariza can play like this come playoff time, the Rockets will be the team to beat without question.
After Ariza put the Rockets ahead, the game turned into a foul line bonanza. There was a comical ending where Kyrie had to miss free throws with his team down two but he could not properly miss a free throw. On the first occasion, he hit the backboard as it went in and he couldn’t hit the rim the second time. It must suck when the one thing you can’t do right is doing something wrong.
Leading the way for the Rockets was Eric Gordon, who knocked down 29 points off the bench and shot 7-11 from deep. The game was a battle of the benches, with both teams having their leading scorer come off the bench. Former Rocket Marcus Morris was the Celtics’ game-high with 21, and he made five of his seven triples. All four bench players for the Celtics scored in double figures as Terry Rozier ended with 17, Greg Monroe had 18 and Marcus Smart scored 11.
The Rockets also had another strong night from perennial MVP candidate James Harden, who had a double-double with 26 points and 10 dimes, and a near triple-double with seven boards. Clint Capela also grabbed 17 boards and eight points on his stat line.
Tonight was simply an incredible display of basketball from both sides. The Celtics shot 48 percent from the floor and made 13 of their 24 threes. The Rockets shot 43 percent from the floor and made 19 threes. The Celtics did not lose this game, the Rockets just had the slight edge at the end.
The game looked like a potential Finals preview as both teams were neck-and-neck throughout and the energy in the Toyota Center was unmatchable. Seven games of this would probably give most Rockets fans heart attacks, but for the common basketball fan, they would appreciate the beauty of a potential seven-game series between these two teams.
With the win, the Rockets have won 15 games in a row, which ties a franchise-record for the second longest winning streak. Houston still has seven games to go to reach the franchise record, and the next game in that climb comes Tuesday on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tipoff is at 7 PM CT.