Celtics caught off guard by Rockets, 108-102

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Celtics caught off guard by Rockets, 108-102

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Houston Rockets continue to do what few teams have been able to do consistently - win in Boston.

The Rockets, fueled by the hot-shooting of their starting backcourt, handed the Celtics a 108-102 loss Monday night at TD Garden.

Boston (28-9) has now lost two in a row, and continued a trend of losing to the Rockets at home.

Houston, led by guards Aaron Brooks (game-high 24 points) and Kyle Lowry (17 points, 8 assists), defeated Boston for the third straight time at the Garden.

But history had nothing to do with what went wrong for the Celtics on Monday.

"I told our guys, I thought overall it was probably our worst defensive effort in three, four years as far as overall effort," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

It wasn't so much that Houston was making so many shots.

More to Rivers' point, it was the fact that those baskets came with little to no resistance by the Celtics.

"We're a defensive-minded group and for some reason over the last couple games, it's just not happening," said Paul Pierce. "I don't know. I mean, everyone's got to look themselves in the mirror, check their selves at the door and just figure this out, get through this little skid we're on."

Houston began to pull away in the second half as it connected on 21 of their 34 shot attempts, or 61.8 percent.

Following the game, the Celtics locker room was like a ghost town with few players sticking around to explain what happened.

Truth be told, they didn't need to.

The numbers don't lie.

Houston got whatever shot it wanted, with very little fight from the Celtics.

When the Rockets missed, they grabbed rebounds.

It was a thorough beating, for sure.

The disappointment could be spread across the entire Celtics roster, but Rivers was especially down on the play of his starters.

"It's on the starters; it's not on the second unit," Rivers said.

Ray Allen agreed.

"We the starters gave the Rockets too much confidence early," Allen said.

At halftime, Rivers reminded his starters that with key players such as Delonte West (right wrist), Kevin Garnett (right calf strain) and Kendrick Perkins (right knee) still out, it's imperative that they play well in order for the second unit to have a shot at success.

"It shouldn't be the other way around," Rivers said. "And so, just a really disappointing game for us."

Using the fact that the Celtics were short-handed is an excuse that Rivers and his players aren't willing to put out there.

It's not like the Rockets haven't had their share of major injuries to deal with.

In addition to not having Yao Ming, the Rockets were also without leading scorer Kevin Martin (wrist) and Brad Miller (knee) on Monday.

"We need to really take advantage of games where their best player isn't playing, guys coming off injury," Pierce said.

As poorly as the Celtics played for most of the night, they still seemed to have a fighter's chance in the game's closing moments.

The C's fell behind by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but found themselves within 106-102 with 18.5 seconds to play when Rajon Rondo forced an eight-second backcourt violation ... or so we thought.

The officials got together briefly, and said that an inadvertent whistle was blown, and it was Houston's ball.

That would be the last gasp the C's had at stealing a game that, frankly, they didn't play well enough to win.

To say that it was just one of those games, is to diminish the potential rippling effect that losing to sub-.500 team at home, can have on this team.

And to blame it on not having Kevin Garnett?

That's letting these guys off the hook way too easy.

"It's mental," Rivers said. "This game had nothing to do with Kevin Garnett. Kevin Garnett didn't play, and it had nothing to do with it."
A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twittter.comsherrodbcsn.

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All-Stars, studs and duds: Westbrook's reign as MVP comes to an end

All-Stars, studs and duds: Westbrook's reign as MVP comes to an end

NEW ORLEANS – You don’t rack up triple doubles at a historically ridiculous rate the way Russell Westbrook does without being able to dish out an assist from time to time.

The biggest assist he made in the 66th annual NBA all-star didn’t make its way on to the stats sheet.

But it was historical in so many ways.

Westbrook’s advice to Anthony Davis on how to win the game’s MVP award was indeed taken to heart with Davis winning the award following the Western Conference’s 192-182 win over the East All-Stars.

Davis finished with a game-high 52 points, shattering the previous mark set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962.

Davis won the MVP award after Westbrook had won it each of the two previous All-Star games.

Prior to the game, Davis said he did do a little lobbying among his fellow all-stars in the locker room.

“I stressed that, I think more than enough, to the guys in the locker room before the game that I wanted to get the MVP for this crowd, for this city, and I ended up doing it.”

Following the game, Westbrook acknowledged that he did speak with Davis about how to win the MVP award.

When asked about what he said, Westbrook replied, “I’m not going to tell you, but he did a good job and got it done.”

Despite not winning the MVP award, Westbrook had a dominant game of his own as he tallied 41 points which was one point shy of the previous record.

But after the game, it was clear that he was more pleased with the performance of Davis.

“It was great,” Westbrook said. “It’s definitely always a great thing to do, especially here where he plays in front of his fans, his family. It’s a great experience and definitely happy for him.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the 66th annual NBA all-star game.

 

STARS

Anthony Davis

The hometown team’s best player delivered a scoring night for the ages, finishing with an All-Star record 52 points on 26-for-39 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. The previous record of 42 points was set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962.

Russell Westbrook

His All-Star reign as the game’s MVP came to an end after having won the award the previous two All-Star games. He finished with 41 points.

 

STUDS

Giannis Antetokounmpo

He was an above-the-rim monster, scoring 30 points primarily on a dozen dunks.

Kevin Durant

He was filling up the stat sheet in several categories for the West, finishing with a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Kyrie Irving

Arguably the best performer for the East, Irving had 22 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas

There were others who had a more prolific night shooting the ball, but Thomas’ impact off the bench was indeed felt. He led all East reserves with 20 points.

James Harden

The bearded one had a triple-double as well, although not the kind he would prefer. Along with scoring 12 points, and dishing out 12 assists, Harden also racked up a game-high 10 turnovers.

 

DUDS

None

There were some guys who didn’t do much statistically, but with this being such an exhibition-like event, putting too much stock in any player’s performance is a waste of time. They are among the top 24 or so players in the NBA. No amount of missed shots or turnovers will change that fact.