The Boston Celtics (29-10) did not look like the Boston Celtics in the first quarter tonight versus the Houston Rockets (25-8), but it did not matter in the end. The Celtics battled back in the second half and beat the Rockets 99-98, using all sorts of momentum from players like Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.
After the Celtics were down by 26, Kyrie Irving pulled his team together in a huddle to ensure they would fight and get back into the game.
“Just that we are playing against a great team, this is a great challenge for us, just block everything out,” said Rozier. “Things are going bad so people are going to doubt us, but we got each other and we are the ones playing. Basically that type of message. It got us going and it got us feeling good about ourselves. Our coaching staff, every player on this team made sure the person next to you wasn’t down and we fed off of it.”
The play or should I say, plays of the game, came with just 7.3 seconds left. A dunk by Jason Tatum cut the lead to one, 98-97. Without taking any time off the clock, Marcus Smart drew an offensive foul on Harden, as he bashed to the floor. The Celtics then drew up an isolation play for Al Horford, who went to the low post and put up a floater that went in with just 3.7 seconds left on the clock. With no timeouts, the Rockets had no choice but to try and get the ball in play. But again, Smart drew another offensive foul against Harden and the Celtics would take the possession and end the game. Within 7.3 seconds, Smart became the hero.
“We just didn’t stop believing,” said Rozier. “We had a special talk at halftime. We had a talk right before halftime, Kyrie (Irving) brought everybody in. We didn’t stop believing and we just felt our fans energy, followed each other’s energy and Smart (Marcus) got us going and we picked it up from there and we didn’t look back.”
If you tuned in during the fourth quarter, you would have thought the game was close the whole time. But it didn’t exactly go that way. The C’s shot a rugged 26.3% in the first quarter, while Houston started off at a 44% clip, as they hit four out of ten from downtown. Boston didn’t even shoot a free throw in the first quarter, something the Rockets, especially star guard James Harden, are used to (21.1 free throws made per game).
The second quarter was almost as bad as the first, as the C’s got outscored by 14 points. The Rockets used their run and gun style to take advantage of a tired and wounded Celtics squad. The Celtics have now played seven games over the last ten days, and have not had much time to practice. After halftime, however, the Celtics regained the strength and fight necessary to mount a comeback and went on to outscore the Rockets 31-16 in third quarter and 30-20 in the fourth.
“Well, first of all, they were unbelievable in the first half, and it’s hard to play from ahead and it’s easy to play free from behind. It’s why you see this in the NBA all the time. But, you know, I thought we – we really guarded, we made shots as tough as possible, and then in the one or two circumstances, whether it was off of loose balls, offensive rebounds, kick-outs where they were wide open, the shots had a little bit more heat on them because you had felt the pressure the whole half instead of you know, you’re just playing free and easy, which they were in the first. They had us on our heels, we tried to be more aggressive defensively; I thought Marcus (Morris) was the key to that, kind of the head of that attack. But everybody added to it.”
The Celtics will have a couple days off to get ready to host the Brooklyn Nets (12-22) on New Years Eve. Tip off is set for 5:30 pm.