Ford Keys to the Game: Rockets 108, Celtics 102
Rockets 108, Celtics 102
The Celtics struggled at both ends of the court for the second straight game tonight, but they can’t say they didn’t have chances. Despite the Rockets lighting it up from the field, Boston had numerous chances to slash into Houston’s lead in the fourth quarter. One of those missed opportunities may have been the deciding stretch of the game.
Glen Davis drilled a 21-foot jumper – a rare occurrence of late – at the 5:20 mark of the fourth quarter to bring the Celtics within 98-90. That shot was prefaced by a missed 3-pointer by Paul Pierce that wound up bouncing out of bounds off of the Rockets. When the Celtics got two breaks in a row, a lucky bounce and a made jumper from Davis, the crowd sensed it was time to make a run. Boston agreed, and that’s why it stepped up its defensive effort at the other end of the court.
When Houston’s starting center, Jordan Hill, gained possession of the ball on the left wing during Houston's ensuing possession, Rajon Rondo swooped in for a double-team that eventually forced a jump ball to be whistled. The matchup of Hill versus Rondo clearly didn’t favor the C’s, and the assumed result eventually took place. Hill won the tip and Courtney Lee reeled in the loose ball.
The fact that Houston won the jump ball didn’t prevent the Celtics from continuing their energetic defense. Just nine seconds after Lee gained possession for the Rockets, Ray Allen stepped up with a steal after Kyle Lowry lost the ball.
Now the C’s were alive and ticking. Down by eight with 4:52 remaining? That’s far from insurmountable for a team like Boston.
The Celtics brought the ball down court and looked in Pierce’s direction for a critical basket. He nearly answered the bell when he drove by his defender and put up a layup attempt that seemed destined to fall through the hoop. Instead, though, it rimmed out and Hill grabbed the rebound.
Transition defense has been an area of concern for Doc Rivers of late, and that’s what came back to bite Boston just moments later. Houston leaked out for a fast break and Lowry found Aaron Brooks open on the right wing behind the 3-point line. Glen Davis quickly closed out on Brooks to challenge the shot, but it was to no avail. Brooks splashed in his fourth trey of the game to put the Rockets ahead by 11 points with 4:28 remaining.
That shot took the air out of the Garden, and Rivers knew it. Before the Celtics could even corral the basketball and take it out of bounds, Rivers called for a timeout to regroup his troops. However, the damage had already been done. Instead of Pierce’s shot cutting the lead to six and putting all of the momentum on Boston’s side, Houston got a 3-pointer to bump the lead up to their largest of the game to that point. That’s a five-point swing in a manner of seconds, and it may have been the back-breaking moment that sent the Celtics to their second consecutive loss.
Key Box Score Line
Watching the evolution of Marquis Daniels has been one of the most enjoyable pieces to this season. He has become one of Boston’s most confident players, and that showed throughout tonight’s game.
Outside of Aaron Brooks, who scored a game-high 24 points, Daniels was the most dominant player on the floor during tonight’s game. He was in attack mode every time he touched the ball, and rightfully so. The only shot that could slow him down tonight was a 3-pointer, which isn’t quite his forte.
Daniels tied for the team high in both points, with 19, and rebounds, with seven. He shot 7-of-8 from the floor and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. His only miss of the night was a 3-pointer that he didn’t hesitate in taking, a clear indication that he felt that he was in the zone.
His seven makes were all as pretty as they can come. He operated in the post with precision, maneuvering around his defender with ease to get open shots around the basket. He also nailed numerous midrange jumpers to keep his defenders honest.
On a night where there wasn’t a whole lot to enjoy on Boston’s side of the ball, it was impossible to ignore Daniels’ performance. If he can continue to play with this type of confidence when the team becomes fully healthy, it’s scary to think about how good the Celtics will eventually be.
Box Score Nuggets
- No player in the game grabbed double-digit rebounds. Luis Scola led the game with nine.
- The Rockets scored 108 points, but only 22 of those came in the paint.
- Marquis Daniels and Ray Allen both scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Those totals tied for the team-highs.
- Rajon Rondo had 12 assists, but also committed five turnovers.
- Four different Rockets made five field goals. Two of those players, Patrick Patterson and Chase Budinger, shot 5-of-6 from the field.
- Boston shot 21-of-23 (91.3 percent) from the free-throw line.
- Houston shot 10-of-20 from 3-point range, highlighted by Aaron Brooks (5-of-8) and Budinger (3-of-4).
- Brooks scored a game-high 24 points.
- In a rare occurrence, the two starting power forwards, Glen Davis and Scola, tied for the game-high in steals with four apiece.
- Boston outscored Houston 48-22 in the paint.
- The Rockets shot 9-of-11 on second-chance opportunities.
- The Celtics grabbed 13 steals in the game.
- Every Rocket who participated in the game, with the exception of Jared Jeffries, scored at least eight points. Seven of the nine Rockets who participated in the game scored in double-figures.
- The game featured 14 lead changes and 11 ties.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on Houston's shooting: "They made some crazy shots. But it was due to our inability to play defense for three quarters. You know, you give a good offensive player confidence, he’ll make crazy shots on you. We see it all the time on our end."