Pinch me. Not because I’m not wearing green. Pinch me so I know I’m awake.
The Houston Rockets hung on to defeat the visiting Boston Celtics 111-109 in a game that came down to a missed Jayson Tatum layup. This is certainly recency bias, but it felt like the best win of the season considering the caliber of opponent.
My favorite part about this game was the atmosphere. From the players to the crowd, it was refreshing to see people care.
Entering the game Alperen Şengün-less (sore groin), Coach Silas decided to give Jabari Smith Jr. the nod at center, and boy did he deliver! Bari dropped 24 points on 9-for-11 from the field and 5-of-6 from three. On top of his blazing shooting splits, he added in 12 rebounds and 3 assists while often guarding the Celtics’ best players, Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Seeing the confidence grow in Bari over this recent stretch has given me such a sigh of relief because we can finally point to the shooting wiz we were once promised.
Another huge factor was the versatility he brought to this game at the center position. With him being able to finally space the floor, the 5-out philosophy is well alive. Sliding him to the five also opened the door for Tari Eason to join the starting crew tonight and that paid dividends on the defensive side as well.
It wasn’t perfect, but given time, I can see the horizon.
This game appeared headed towards a good ol’ fashioned Jalen/Jaylen-off as Green and Brown were humming early. Our Jalen put up an efficient 16 points in the first quarter, but Boston’s tough defense ended up limiting him to 28 on 8-for-29 from the field.
It looked like he was too disgruntled with the refereeing at points of the game, but he made some key buckets down the stretch to his credit.
Their Jaylen was hot early and stayed hot as he scorched us for 43 points. There wasn’t much any of our guys could do with JB tonight. Boston certainly needed all he could provide as Tatum was quiet until he started clicking some in the third quarter. Credit to our guys for stepping up and making it tough for him when it mattered.
While we won this one, it appeared like it was quickly heading to yet another gut-wrenching defeat. Boston clawed back and tied it up late as they got a big boost from Malcolm Brogdon’s 20 off the bench.
Fortunately for Houston, we got some timely threes from none other than the league’s greatest sniper, Usman Garuba. Combine that with KJ Martin’s only three of the game (20 points on the night) and Houston never wavered.
Kevin Porter Jr. thrived as a playmaker tonight as he dished 13 assists and only turned it over once! Although the Rockets struggled as a whole to make it count from deep (11-for-35) you could see how much it benefitted KPJ to have a big who could capitalize on open shots.
He went out briefly in the second half as it appeared he aggravated his toe injury, but he returned to close this one out when we needed him.
I think I might’ve slept well tonight even if Houston kept it competitive, but this win was truly a thrill.