In the closing seconds, the Boston Celtics got exactly what they wanted.
A chance to win, with the ball in their $113 million man’s hands with a game-winning layup in the making.
Al Horford and the Boston Celtics did everything right except finish the playoff as Horford’s game-winning layup rimmed out as time expired which preserved a 107-106 win for Houston.
The potential game-winner came courtesy of Marcus Smart drawing a flagrant-1 foul against James Harden with the Celtics trailing at the time, 107-104.
Smart went to the line and made both free throws to make it a one-point game.
Boston’s Isaiah Thomas missed a potential game-winning layup that went out of bounds off of Harden with 5.3 seconds left.
After the officials reviewed the play to make sure it did in fact go off of Harden, Boston had one more shot to steal the victory … and they came up short.
James Harden made a ton of free throws and as usual, does a nice job of setting his teammates up for easy scores.
But down the stretch, he went back to the 3-point shooting identity of the Houston Rockets which proved to be just enough for the win as his 3-pointer over Smart with 55 seconds to play eventually became the game-winning shot.
For the night, Houston was 12-for-38 on 3s while the Celtics were 11-for-32.
Harden led all scorers with 37 points to go with eight assists, eight rebounds and yes, 10 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Horford had a strong night as well (minus the late-game miss) with 21 points, six rebounds and a game-high nine assists.
The Celtics (12-9) had their five-game road winning streak come to an end while the Rockets (14-8) have now won three straight and eight of their last 10 games.
The loss snapped Boston’s five-game road winning streak.
Boston fell behind by as many as 12 points in the third quarter following a jump-hook shot in the lane by Clint Capela.
The Celtics responded one of their best stretches of play at both ends of the floor, resulting in a 19-2 run that put Boston ahead 72-67 following a jumper by Horford.
Houston went on a mini-spurt by scoring five of the game’s next seven points which brought them within 74-72 when Brad Stevens called a time-out with 4:39 to play in the third quarter.
Boston continued to lock down defensively while getting some timely baskets which was good enough for them to take an 83-77 lead into the fourth quarter.
BOSTON – The Bruins are undefeated this season when they manage to cobble together three goals in a game.
It took a little extra as David Pastrnak knifed through former BC defenseman Mike Matheson in overtime for his second goal of the game, and his 15th of the season, to take a 4-3 win over the Panthers at TD Garden.
It was thought the final offensive push they needed took place in the third period when Ryan Spooner hopped on the David Krejci line with David Backes, and fired a shot at the Boston net that Backes redirected through Roberto Luongo for his seventh of the season.
But the Panthers tied it up on a Demers goal late in the third period, and that set up Pastrnak’s brilliant one-on-one move for the game-winner for the Black and Gold.
The Bruins led off the scoring on a nice play by Tim Schaller winning a battle to enter the Florida zone, and then circling around behind the net before burying a one-timer from the slot as he crashed the net to connect with a David Krejci dish headed straight his way.
The Panthers tied it a period later when the legend, Jaromir Jagr, buried a chance from the slot after his line had hemmed in the David Krejci line and Torey Krug/Adam McQuaid pairing for an extended shift in the Boston zone. It was goal No. 754 of Jagr’s brilliant NHL career as he continues to go strong for the Panthers, and it also tied the game 1-1.
The Bruins looked like they might haven the lead for good on David Pastrnak’s 14th goal of the season, but it wasn’t mean to be. Pastrnak started it all by protecting a puck and retaining possession from his knees in the corner of the offensive zone. Eventually Patrice Bergeron fired a puck wide of the net, and Brad Marchand unleashed a spinning, no-look pass to a waiting Pastrnak for the easy score past Roberto Luongo.
The Panthers tied it a second time in the third period when Reilly Smith stripped a puck from Patrice Bergeron going up the center of the ice, and eventually it found its way to Aleksander Barkov for a ripped shot from long distance for his fourth goal of the season.
Then Florida tied it again in the final minutes of the third on a Jason Demers rebound bid after Mike Matheson’s shot went wide of the net and took a wild carom off the end boards in the exact opposite direction.