Keys to the Game

Keys to the Game: Celtics 99, Rockets 98

Key Moment
Key Player
Box Score Nuggets
Quote of the Night

Key Moment

How did the Celtics do it? How did the Celtics do it?!

Some clutch offense. Some clutch defense. And maybe a couple of shocking calls from the referees.

Boston trailed by as many as 26 points during the second half of Thursday’s thriller against Houston. It battled all the way back to make it a one-possession game with 5:16 remaining in the contest, but it failed to even the score up or to take a lead on six consecutive opportunities before the final 12 seconds of the game ticked off the clock in the wildest of all fashions.

Following two consecutive timeouts by the Rockets, James Harden made two free throws with 11.6 seconds left to make it a three-point game. Boston called for a timeout of its own, and that’s when things really heated up.

Brad Stevens opted to go for the quick two-pointer out of the timeout and he got exactly what he wanted. Jayson Tatum dunked one home after catching a beautiful pass from Marcus Smart, who had posted up about 23 feet from the basket on the right wing.

That bucket made it a one-point game with 7.3 seconds left, but the C’s still needed a miracle to pull off the win.

They got one.

Houston, out of timeouts, set up for its ensuing inbound play right after Tatum’s slam. Harden, the league’s leading scorer, attempted to free himself up to catch an inbound pass but as he did so, he raised his left elbow into Smart’s chest and forced the Celtics guard to his back.

Offensive foul!

Boston, out of timeouts itself, soon inbounded the ball from the right sideline and got the ball to Al Horford in the post, about halfway up the right side of the lane. He took two dribbled against Tarik Black, powered his way closer to the rim, and tossed up a right-handed push-shot that dropped through the net.

The Celtics now led 99-98 – their first lead of the game – with just 3.7 seconds remaining.

Remember, the Rockets were out of timeouts, and they knew it. They needed to get the ball inbounds and up the court quickly to get a shot off for the win.

Funny thing is, they weren’t able to accomplish Step 1, let alone Step 2.

Harden, fighting to free himself from Smart yet again on an inbound pass, soon felt déjà vu, as he raised his right arm into Smart’s chest and was called for another offensive foul. Two of them in a span of 3.6 seconds.

Harden could do nothing but hold his palms to the sky, wondering what exactly he had just done.

What he did was give the game away.

Boston took possession, and after drawing a foul with 2.0 seconds left, Al Horford missed two free throws – the second of which was on purpose to decrease Houston’s options for a potential game-winner. Eric Gordon grabbed the rebound off the second miss and heaved one three-quarters of the court at the buzzer, but the shot was not even close.

Game over. Comeback complete. Insanity inside TD Garden!

That was one of the wildest finishes that will ever be seen in the NBA. Fortunately for the C’s, the final result went their way, thanks to some offense, some defense, and a couple of crazy calls.

Key Player

The two biggest plays of the game won’t show up in the box score, but Marcus Smart doesn’t care. Neither do we, because he had a pretty strong game outside of the two game-changing charges he drew out of James Harden.

Smart, starting in place of the injured Jaylen Brown, scored 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting. He made five of his nine attempts from inside the 3-point arc.

In typical Smart fashion, he added a whole lot more to the box score than only points. He also tallied six rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots and two steals. That, folks, is stuffing the stat sheet.

Simply put, the C’s wouldn’t have won this game without him. His defense down the stretch on Harden was otherworldly, and his overall performance was impressive enough to earn him this spot tonight.

Box Score Nuggets

  • James Harden tallied game highs of 34 points and 10 assists.
  • Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 26 points.
  • Irving show 8-for-12 from inside the 3-point arc.
  • On the second night of a back-to-back, four of Boston's starters played at least 33 minutes. Jayson Tatum played 39 minutes and 54 seconds.
  • Tatum was second behind Irving in Boston's scoring column with 19 points of his own.
  • Al Horford led the C's with eight rebounds, trailing only P.J. Tucker's nine in the game.
  • Boston led for only 3.7 seconds - the final 3.7 seconds.
  • Houston led by as many as 26 points.
  • Harden committed a game-high eight turnovers.
  • Boston scored 56 points in the paint, compared to Houston's 28.
  • Marcus Smart blocked a game-high three shots, and he tied five others for the game high in steals with two.
  • Terry Rozier (13 points) and Marcus Morris (10 points) each scored in double-figures off of Boston's bench. They each individually matched or surpassed the scoring total from Houston's entire bench (10 points)
  • Harden shot 25-for-125 from the free-throw line.

Quote of the Night

The result doesn't matter. It's the resiliency that they showed. They could have easily folded.

Brad Stevens on Boston's resiliency.

Key Player