Stars, studs, and duds: Celtics fight until final buzzer to take down Rockets


BOSTON – The Boston Celtics went into the locker room at the half on Thursday night in about as bad a shape as we’ve seen them in any game this season – maybe during Brad Stevens’ four-plus seasons in Boston. 

There wasn’t a lot to say. 

Houston was up 62-38, giving them the kind of smackdown an elite team should never have to endure, even worst that it was happening at home. 

So, the halftime message according to Marcus Smart, was pretty simple – Fight. 

Did. They. Ever. 


Boston has had some pretty amazing comebacks this season, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more improbable rally by this team which came from 26 points down to shock the Houston Rockets 99-98. 

Put it this way. 

Boston’s first lead for the game didn’t come until 3.7 seconds were left to be played, and even that wasn’t safe until Smart drew a second straight offensive foul against James Harden. 

His strategy on defending Harden? 

“Just get up in him,” Smart said afterwards. “I know it sounds crazy to say with a guy of his caliber. But when he can get to dancing, feels comfortable, that’s with anybody, it’s tough to guard. When you get up in him you give him one way to go, one option to go … it’s hard.”

And in doing so, the Celtics got a hard-earned win over one of the NBA’s elite teams. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 99-98 win over Houston.



Jayson Tatum: His aggressive play in the third quarter, particularly on defense, set the tone for Boston’s miraculous comeback. He also had 19 points on 5-for-11 shooting, but took 11 free throw attempts – he made nine.

Kyrie Irving: He had a few moments in the fourth quarter that he would love to have back, but Irving’s ability to carve up the Houston defense was among the keys to Boston getting back in the game in the third quarter, and being well-positioned for the fourth quarter rally. He led all Celtics with 26 points. 



Marcus Smart: He did not shoot the ball well, I know. But if you look back at this game, the two offensive fouls he drew in the closing seconds of the game were as important to the game’s outcome as any plays made all game. And he still managed to have a decent stat line with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. 

Terry Rozier: He leads all reserves in minutes played this season, and his value to this Celtics team could not have been more apparent on Thursday night. He had 13 points off the bench on 5-for-8 shooting, in addition to a steal and breakaway dunk that forced Houston to take a time-out as the game’s momentum had clearly swung in Boston’s favor.

Abdel Nader: You can count Nader among Boston’s end-of-the-bench players who made the most of his opportunity for increased playing time. Nader, who started the third quarter in place of Aron Baynes, had five points and a career-high seven rebounds for Boston. 

Eric Gordon: He was the perfect complementary scorer for James Harden most of the night, and was really key in the second quarter when Harden was on the bench. Gordon finished with 24 points, although he did it on a less-than-efficient 9-for-23 shooting. 

Al Horford: This was not one of Al Horford’s best games, but give him credit. He came through when the Celtics absolutely needed him. Horford had just nine points on 4-for-10 shooting, but his bucket with 3.7 seconds to play in the post was the game-winner. He also managed to grab eight rebounds to go with four assists. 



James Harden: He had a double-double of 34 points and 10 assists, but was absolutely horrible when it mattered most down the stretch. In addition to shooting 7-for-27 from the field which included 5-for-15 from 3-point range, he committed a pair of offensive fouls in the game’s closing seconds that sealed Boston’s comeback from 26 points down. 

Celtics first half: By far the worst first half they have played in a game that they wound up winning. The Celtics gave Houston way too many good looks offensively and for the most part, didn’t play with the kind of force and multi-effort play mindset needed against a Houston team that’s one of the NBA’s best.


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