Rockets soar past Celtics, 101-89

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Rockets soar past Celtics, 101-89

HOUSTON The Boston Celtics are tripped up on the first leg of their Texas two-step by the Houston Rockets who used a strong third quarter surge to take control before handing the C's a 101-89 loss.

The Rockets were led by James Harden's 21 points in addition to Greg Smith chipping in 20 points off the bench. Boston's Paul Pierce had a team-high 18 points while Rajon Rondo tallied 15 points and 13 assists.

Boston (12-10) doesn't have much time to think about what went wrong against the Rockets (11-11), not with a road game at Western conference power San Antonio Saturday night.

Houston for the most part owned the second half of this game, and with it came away with their second straight victory under head coach and former Celtic Kevin McHale who returned to the team recently after the death of his daughter.

The strong play by Boston in the second quarter was wiped out quickly in the third as the Rockets opened the quarter with a 20-9 run to take a 63-54 lead.

A 3-point play by Rondo made it a 63-57 game, but it was clear that the game's momentum had taken a major swing in favor of the home team.

Houston's start was fueled by their ability to score in transition. After tallying a total of 12 fast-break points in the first half, it took less than six minutes for them to register six fast-break points - equal to their average in the first two quarters of play. They would finish the game with 25 fast-break points compared to 11 for Boston.

For too many stretches of play, Boston looked very much like a team that still hadn't quite recovered from a double overtime thriller in defeating Dallas on Wednesday.

Houston is the youngest team in the NBA and looked a step (or two, or three or ) quicker than Boston most of the first quarter.

Even with a lineup change designed to bolster Boston's defense - Courtney Lee in for Jason Terry - the Celtics still had trouble keeping the Rockets from getting out in transition.

Boston tried to go to Kevin Garnett early, but Houston's Omer Asik did a nice job of not allowing Garnett to get too deep in the post while also contesting his perimeter jumpers which heavily factored in Garnett missing five of his first six shots from the field.

Garnett finished with 14 points and five rebounds with a large chunk of his points coming while guarded by Smith.

Houston led by as many as 13 points in the first, but the Celtics chipped away at Houston's lead to cut Boston's lead after the first quarter down to 27-19.

Boston played the Rockets to a near standstill during the first four or five minutes of the second quarter, which isn't a good thing when you're facing the kind of deficit they were looking.

But that soon changed as the Celtics began to string together defensive stops and timely baskets like the wide open corner 3-pointer by Jason Terry to tie the game at 32.

Following another stop, Rondo drove into the lane for a lay-up to give the Celtics their first lead of the game with 6:10 to play in the half.

It was all part of an 18-2 Celtics run in the quarter that eventually ended with Boston leading 45-43 at the half.

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

BOSTON – Wednesday’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks was the fifth time in the last six games that Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was out because of a right Achilles injury.

Well, it appears the 6-foot-2 guard may miss a few more with this injury.

“I can see him missing a little more time,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following Wednesday’s loss. “I just think maybe he came back a little bit too early, whatever the case may be.”

Bradley was expected to play against the Knicks, but was a last-minute scratch.

Celtics big man Al Horford said he didn’t find out Bradley was out until the team was on the floor doing pre-game warmups and he didn’t see him.

“He was really sore,” Stevens said of Bradley. “Went through our walk-through and then came on to the court and did some stuff and was more sore today than he has been. I think he did treatment the whole game.”

This latest setback for Bradley is part of a growing narrative that has dogged him throughout his career which has included him missing games to injury in each of his six-plus NBA seasons.

Bradley came into this season once again hoping to be as injury-free as possible, only to see that dream dashed with this right Achilles strain he's suffering with currently.

Still, there’s no downplaying the significance and value the Celtics have in the 26-year-old. This season, he is second on the Celtics in scoring at 17.7 points per game and leads them in rebounds with 6.9 per game with both being career highs. In addition, he averages just under 35 minutes per game which is also tops on the team.

Marcus Smart has been Stevens’ choice to replace Bradley in the starting lineup when Bradley has been unavailable, and that’s not likely to change between now and Saturday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

BOSTON – With the night’s outcome all but a foregone conclusion, Al Horford’s last basket of the night got a sarcastic round of applause and a few jeers from the few fans that decided to stick it out for the final few seconds of Boston’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks.

Horford finished with a season-low five points for the Celtics (26-16).

Connecting on just 2-for-14 (or 14.3 percent) of his shots also represented the worst shooting night percentage-wise in Horford’s nine-plus NBA seasons.

“I struggled bad offensively,” said Horford who still managed to dish out a game-high 10 assists. “I tried to do anything I could to help us. It just wasn’t going for me.”

But as poorly as Horford shot the ball, he was more bothered by his defense and for that matter the Celtics’ team defense.

New York came into Wednesday’s game having lost 11 of its last 13 games and spent most of the night playing like a team that’s thirsty for a win.

They shot 50.5 percent from the floor, 40 percent on 3’s and dominated the glass 57-33 which helped fuel New York’s 24-12 advantage in second-chance points.

“We have to do a better job of holding teams to one shot,” Horford said. “That’s the first thing. I have to do a better job at protecting the rim. I know I can recall a couple instances where I needed to be there and I wasn’t impacting the ball as much as I would like to. I know I have to be better on the defensive end.”

Horford’s struggles on many levels mirrored the problems experienced by the rest of the Celtics.

“They punked us,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who led all scorers with 39 points. “They were the harder playing team on both ends of the floor. That was the definition of this game; they played harder than us.”

For most of the night, the New York Knicks were making all the big plays defensively and clutch shots offensively while the Celtics consistently failed to get that one defensive stop or knock down the one jumper that could have at least shifted the game’s momentum closer to being in their favor.

Boston rookie Jaylen Brown believes the Celtics didn’t take the struggling Knicks as seriously as they should have.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Brown who came off the bench to score 12 points for Boston (26-16). “It’s a game we should have won. We underestimated our opponent. We are a better team than that even though we played bad we still had a lot of opportunities to win the ball game.”

Horford had a different take on how things went down on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we overlooked them,” Horford said. “But I think we kind of … consciously or not, we felt we were going to win this game like, ‘We’ll struggle a little bit, but we’ll figure it out and win it.’ It didn’t work like that. In the fourth, we were right there. They made a couple shots. They deserved to win. They played better.”

And as the Celtics found themselves on multiple occasions having a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth, it would have been fool’s good if they somehow managed to squeak out a win on Wednesday night.

“We didn’t deserve it,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder who had 21 points. “When you don’t deserve it, the basketball gods don’t bless you.”

But there’s plenty of season left to be played, and the Celtics – as we saw on Wednesday – have plenty of room for improvement.

Especially Horford, particularly when it comes to getting back on track shooting the ball.

“It was at the point where I didn’t have it,” he said. “That was tough. So I tried to impact the game in other ways whether it was setting screens or giving people shots, stuff like that. That was definitely tough for me because they were good looks. They just didn’t go in.”