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Rockets Run Cold In Boston

January 12, 2013 1:30 am EST

BOSTON - Some games don’t require advanced statistics to analyze or elaborate stories to explain what transpired and why. Not every contest needs to be painstakingly dissected to determine the root cause behind the outcome. Sometimes the answers really are as simple as they seem.

Exhibit A in that regard: Houston’s 103-91 defeat at the hands of the Celtics Friday night. A lot went wrong for the Rockets in Boston and the coaches will undoubtedly cringe when reviewing certain aspects of the game film. But nothing will stand out more than the fact that the Rockets simply couldn’t shoot straight, especially from the free throw line where Houston shot an unspeakable 12-for-29. And it was that number that effectively doomed the Rockets to their fate Friday as the team dropped its second straight on the heels of its five-game winning streak.

Truth be told, that the Rockets even found themselves with a chance to emerge victorious late in the fourth quarter was a minor miracle in and of itself – such were the depths of the club’s poor shooting. Houston also hit just 9-of-33 from beyond the arc while falling behind by as many as 17 points in the second half. Yet the Rockets somehow still managed to make a game of it, climbing within two midway through the fourth quarter with a 12-0 run that culminated with a Chandler Parsons fast break facial hammered home over top of Kevin Garnett.

But as quickly as Houston had found a way back into the contest, the Celtics shoved them back into a hole to stay. Paul Pierce and Garnett rapidly restored order for Boston, teaming up to propel the Celtics on an 15-3 run in response. The Rockets never challenged again.

“We dug ourselves a little hole and we spent a lot of energy coming back and we just weren’t able to sustain the energy,” lamented Jeremy Lin, who finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. “They did a good job putting pressure on us. They really controlled the tempo and they got the shots they wanted to get and we didn’t make them uncomfortable enough.

“We had a lot of good shots today to be honest. We had a lot of good, open looks that we normally hit that we just did not hit. You need to hit shots to win.”

The Rockets actually started the game brightly, locking down on defense while racing out to a 9-point lead in the first quarter. But it was in that opening frame that the free throw virus first reared its ugly head, foreshadowing the ugly misses that would lead to the team’s undoing. Omer Asik, 1-of-8 from the line on the night, missed each of his four free throw tries in the period, opening the door for the Celtics to rally.

Sure enough, Boston’s bench brigade brought the team back and then some, sparking an incredible 38-16 stretch that saw the Celtics assume full control of the game. Jared Sullinger was especially vital during that time, racking up 14 points and 8 rebounds in the first half, at times almost singlehandedly dashing any opportunities for Houston’s transition attack to get off the ground with his domination of the offensive glass.

“Sullinger played well,” admitted Rockets head coach Kevin McHale. “He came in and bullied us a bit in the first half, just his willingness to push and shove around the basket got everybody under and he rebounded the ball. They were really executing well there for stretches. We started to catch up but it was just one of those games where we never really could get over the hump.

“That’s two games in a row where we haven’t shot the ball very well or moved it very well, either. We’ve got a lot of stuff we need to clean up.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We had a lot of corner 3s that we have to shoot. We were 9-33 from 33, and a stunning 12-29 from the line – you do that and you put yourself behind the 8-ball. I thought we handled their pressure much better in the second half – we had too many turnovers in the first half.

For us, and our team and how we play, we have to make some shots. We tried to attack and Garnett had four blocks and was big for them in the paint protecting the rim. We had drop-offs where we probably could have hit the guy, but we missed way too many free throws and we just weren’t sharp.

(free throw shooting why you didn’t go back to Omer in fourth?)

No, we made a little bit of a run and I just felt that crew was giving us good energy. Greg Smith rebounded the ball well and so did Omer. Those guys did a good job for us.

(on the Boston bench in the first half)

Yeah, they really got into us with their bench. They kind of extended us at the beginning of the second quarter and got a bit of a lead on us … Sullinger played well. He came in and bullied us a bit in the first half, just his willingness to push and shove around the basket got everybody under and he rebounded the ball. He made a couple tough shots. He played well and the Celtics are playing better. Since Bradley came back they’ve got a little more zip in their step. They were really executing well there for stretches. We started to catch up but it was just one of those games where we never really could get over the hump.

That’s two games in a row where we haven’t shot the ball very well or moved it very well, either. We’ve got a lot of stuff we need to clean up.

JEREMY LIN

We dug ourselves a little hole and we spent a lot of energy coming back and we just weren’t able to sustain the energy. They did a good job putting pressure on us. They really controlled the tempo and they got the shots they wanted to get and we didn’t make them uncomfortable enough.

(tough to establish tempo in second half due to all the foul calls?)

Yeah, there were a lot of fouls today and our foul shooting was terrible. Both of those things combined, a lot of fouls and you’re not hitting your free throws, makes it really hard for us to have the ability to get that rhythm that we normally get. Today was just a tough one, it was a slower pace and we’ve got to do a better job of pushing it.

We had a lot of good shots today to be honest. We were 9-33 from 3. We had a lot of good, open looks that we normally hit that we just did not hit. You need to hit shots to win.

Boston Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers

What he told the team after the Houston come-back: “Just keep playing.  I thought we stopped moving the ball offensively.  I mean, with Houston, they’re just going to keep coming and I really thought we got very stagnant offensively – milking the clock and the ball was in one person’s hands, whoever it was, it wasn’t moving.  They were trapping, they upped their defense, and they went small as well, except for the one big on the floor.  And it affected us.”

Re Celtics bench: “Our bench was huge.  I mean, that’s what stretched the game, that stretch in the end of the first and through most of the second quarter we left them out there.  They’re just playing so free together, they’re defending.  You know, one of the big differences is they’re defending now.  And so when they get stops they can run.  There’s no ball pressure that can be put on them without having a quote-unquote ‘point guard’ on the floor.  So it’s been really good.”

Re playing a few games answering a run with a run: “The good thing is, that’s where the bench is so important.  Because when that run happens the starters were off the floor in some ways; you put your starters back on and they have rest.  They’re ready.  And they were fresh down the stretch.  And when you look at the minutes, you know Kevin (Garnett), I think, which is unusual for us, led our starters in minutes at 33.  That’s low minutes for everyone else.  That means they’re fresh.”

Re what has brought five-game win streak: “I think there’s a lot of little things.  We’ve decided to defend as a group full-time, and stay committed to it.  Avery’s (Bradley) return has helped.  The second unit now has a second unit; you know Jet’s (Jason Terry) not in the first unit or Courtney (Lee).  It’s pretty solidified who the second unit is, so now when we practice that group’s always together. So I think there’s a lot of little things to it.”

Re did he have indicators that Jared Sullinger would have such an impact: “No, I mean he’s just getting better.  He’s a good player.  And he deserves to be a good player.  He’s always been a good player and he was a bad player for one day, and that was the draft.  Other than that he’s always been a good player.”

Re defense on James Harden: “It was nice.  Did he get 25?  Then it was terrific. It was great.”

Re only team to hold Harden to under 25 points: “He had a streak, and it was broken tonight, right?  I’m joking, I’m joking.  Listen, he did miss some good shots but I just thought the pressure up the floor on him by Avery was really important for us.  We talked about it and (Rajon) Rondo had to get up today too.  And guard (Jeremy) Lin.  And both of those guys being on the other side of half-court extended their pick and roll, extended their offense. And that’s what we were thinking going into the game, and it played out that way.”

Re less scoring onus on Paul Pierce: “It’s nice when he can sit that long and still do what he does.  And you know he’s going to be fresh down the stretch.  Jeff (Green) has been playing so well, and the better Jeff plays, the better Paul will play too, because he’ll have more energy.”

Avery Bradley

“You know, it shows how deep our team is. They were able to come in and bring that energy. Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Jared, Jeff. They all came in and brought that energy, and played well tonight.”

“He’s a very good player. Not only him but Jeremy Lin and Parsons. Their good players. All you can do it try and make every position hard on them, and that’s what we did tonight.”

“Of course, it starts with Rondo. He gets everyone involved and we get our playmakers involved and then get everybody else involved. You know tonight I just felt like we played team basketball and that’s why we got the win.”

“We had to get back to what we were doing. You know, we were taking bad shots, we weren’t defending the way we know we are suppose to defend, and Rondo slowed it down. He just made some great calls, play calling and you know he looked over at Doc and he was like ‘you’ve got it.’ Rondo called some great calls, he started to score. KG got a big bucket. Paul got a good bucket. And when I hit that three it kind of sealed it. We just played great tonight.”

Re: Does Jared surprise you anymore: “No. Jared goes out there and does his job. Jared’s going to get offensive rebounds, he’s going to play hard, he’s going to defend. He just goes out there and competes.”

Re: Frustration they give teams with ball pressure: “You know you start to see some teams try to do it to us. Because it affects the game a lot. We definitely frustrate our opponents, that’s what we try to do. I’ll start the game off trying to frustrate whoever I’m going up against and Courtney comes in the game and he does the same thing.”

Re: Lee and Bradley dubbed pitbulls: “We have to that’s our role on this team. We have to come in and play hard on the defensive end and bring that energy. And that’s what we are going to do every single night.”

Paul Pierce

Re: Houston pulled within 2, what did you do differently: “Well we picked up the defense, I thought we came out there and got stops. Executed our offense and were able to push the lead back to double figures.”

“I thought we turned the ball over, that was the thing. We turned the ball against Houston. Their so fast in transition. And they’ve got a couple guys, one man fast break with Jeremy. James Harden, and the way they space the floor. We put a lot of pressure on them in the fast break. So once we cut down our turnovers and took better shots, executed our offense, we pushed the lead.”

“I feel good. I feel like we are building. You know, we’re getting better and better. As the season goes on, taking it one game at a time in this home stretch. And hopefully we can just keep it going.”

“They’ve been huge for us in this winning streak. I mean they’ve been not only able to come in and sustain the lead, they’ve been able to come in and push the lead. I come out the game and we’re down 3 or 4 and then I come back in and we’re up 10. So that’s a lot of pressure off of me and the rest of the starters when you’ve got a bench that’s playing so confident and playing great defense and moving the ball.”

Re: Sullinger: “Yeah, he has a great IQ. He’s understanding the system. It always seems like he’s in the right place at the right time. His instincts for the ball are really great, he has great hands and I think he’s just getting more and more confidence as the season goes on, as he continues to play well, as he continues to get minutes. And he’s looking like a veteran out there.

Jared Sullinger

 “It’s coming easier. I mean obviously I’ve played 36 games. So it’s just me in my comfort zone now.”

“I know these guys now, I know the timing. When they’re going to shoot, when they’re not going to shoot, so just learning everything.”

Re: Second unit working: “We’ve been working on it for the longest, and we’ve finally got it going. I mean I think Avery really put everybody back. Courtney’s coming off the bench, Jason’s coming off the bench, and their back to their roles that their used to.”

“We’re just playing hard, we’re in a groove right now. Five games, you know obviously we’re in a great groove right now.”

“I’m just playing hard, that’s all it is.”