Doc Rivers had to call a timeout less than two minutes into the game. Houston hit several buzzer-beaters at the end of the shot clock. Greg Smith – yes, Greg Smith - scored 20 points on what was nearly a perfect shooting night.
It never really felt like the Celtics had a chance to win Friday night's game in Houston. Nearly everything went right for the Rockets, including one play with 4:43 remaining in the game that put one of the final nails in Boston’s coffin.
The Celtics trailed by five points with less than five minutes remaining and were digging in on the defensive end of the floor. All they needed was a stop and a bucket, and this would have been back to a one-possession game. They were seconds away from accomplishing the first half of that goal before James Harden hit a desperation 3.
Rajon Rondo defended Harden at the top of the key and poked the ball away from Harden with his right hand. The ball deflected off of Harden’s leg and bounced toward center court. Rondo showed relentless hustle by diving on the floor in an attempt to gain possession of the ball, but Harden reeled it in first. The shot clock was about two seconds away from expiring when Harden gained control.
Harden, the wily scorer that he is, knew the situation. He turned around, took a couple of quick dribbles and stepped into a 28-foot 3-pointer that dashed any hopes Boston had of winning the game.
That shot was a game-changer. It gave the Rockets a very comfortable fourth-quarter lead at eight points while simultaneously taking away Boston’s opportunity to make it a one-possession game.
Key Box Score Line
You probably haven’t heard of Greg Smith. Heck, most of the Celtics probably hadn’t heard about Greg Smith before Friday’s game. But we all knew who he was by the end of the night.
Smith, an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State in 2011, threw his own party in the paint against Boston. He came off of the bench to score 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting, and nearly all of those buckets were either layups or dunks. He also grabbed six boards and recorded a game-high three blocks.
The Celtics came into this game wanting to slow down James Harden. They did that, to some effect, but in the meantime they forgot to defend Houston’s unheralded big man.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston shot exactly 40 percent in the game.
- Two Rockets, James Harden (21 points) and Greg Smith (20 points) scored at least 20 points, while Paul Pierce led the C's with 18 points.
- Rajon Rondo accounted for a game-high 13 assists.
- Boston finished the game with 15 steals, led by Rondo's four.
- Smith made eight of his nine field goal attempts.
- Houston made as many free throws as Boston attempted (17).
- Each team attempted at least 20 3-pointers and both shot at least 37 percent from long range.
- Omer Asik was the only player to grab double-digit rebounds. He finished with 10.
- Both teams committed 16 personal fouls.
- Harden (2-for-7) and Pierce (2-for-6) combined to shoot 4-for-13 from downtown.
- Houston scored 40 points in the paint and 25 fast break points.
Quote of the Night
Houston basically circled around the three point line and played one-on-one and our guys couldn’t cover them. Doc Rivers on defending the Rockets