The Boston Celtics fell to the Houston Rockets 111-109, failing to match their energy and playing catch up for the entire second half. The game came down to a smoked Jayson Tatum lay up for the tie, a microcosm of Boston’s terrible night on the offensive end. The C’s move to 1-1 on this six-game road trip, while the young Rockets pick up perhaps their most impressive win of the season.
This was a game some assumed would be an easy night for Boston, but their lack of intensity left them flatfooted against a hungry opponent. The Celtics ended the night shooting 28.6% from three, missing many open, catch and shoot attempts set up by good ball movement. They refused to abandon the three, settling for long-distance shots when driving downhill proved to be more effective tonight.
After the game, Jayson Tatum took responsibility for the team’s poor effort. “I take the blame for that,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily start the best, and I feel like that kind of spread throughout the team. I have to be better starting the game, just from an energy level.”
Joe Mazzulla also expressed frustration after the game, admitting that the Celtics offense was inept tonight. “The free throws, the rebounding, the turnovers, the second chances,” he said, “it’s concerning.”
Jaylen Brown put the team on his back through multiple stretches of the game, ending with 43 points on 64% shooting. He emptied his bag on the Houston defense, working from the paint, midrange, and from three with dexterity. Aside from him and Malcolm Brogdon, who had another solid game off the bench, no one else made their presence felt on either end. Tatum ended with 22 points, but was a -2 and left too many points on the table.
The Rockets cut down their turnovers tonight — ending with 10 — but finished the game with team stats hovering around their low averages for assists, three point percentage, and field goal percentage. They did not play a clean game, they simply out worked the Celtics on both ends of the floor. Houston got some uncharacteristic stops on defense, dominated the glass (without Alperen Sengün), and stuck to their oftentimes ugly brand of iso-ball to propel them to the win.
Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. played an excellent game, finishing with 24 points on 9/11 shooting and 5/6 from three. Jalen Green, though inefficient, filled up the stat sheet as well with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Kevin Porter Jr., who went down with a scary ankle injury late in the 4th, eventually returned to finish the game, and posted 14 points and 13 assists.
These types of games can happen for contending teams, but the Celtics can’t afford any more of these or they risk the Bucks pulling away with the one seed. It’s a broken record at this point, but Boston needs to refocus for their next game and reestablish dominance over worse opponents. They take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.