Kyrie Irving and James Harden stole the show Thursday night at Toyota Center. Interestingly, the key moment of the Celtics-Rockets matchup came when they were both on the sideline.
Boston and Houston opened up the fourth quarter without either of their superstar guards on the floor, as Irving and Harden were both conserving their energy for crunch time.
The Celtics were hoping to use this time to close their six-point gap; instead the opposite happened. Houston, which entered the frame up 92-86, doubled its lead in less than two minutes, and never looked back.
Nene set the tone by converting an and-1 lay-up on the Rockets' first possession of the frame. Jaylen Brown responded on the other end for the Celtics, knocking down a jumper at the 10:55 mark, but from there, Boston's offense went stone-cold.
The C's were unable to hit a field goal for the next two and a half minutes, and Houston capitalized on their drought by riding the hot hands of Eric Gordon and former Celtic Gerald Green.
By the time Irving and Harden stepped back into the game, the Rockets were up by double-digits. They would stay up all the way to the end, cruising to a 127-113 victory.
James Harden put on a scoring clinic Thursday night, pouring in 45 points on a career-high-tying 9 3-point makes.
Yet, there was one individual who out-performed him from an all-around standpoint: Kyrie Irving.
Harden notched nearly twice as many points as Irving (23), but Irving was more efficient in his scoring, he made far fewer mistakes, and his team performed better when he was on the floor.
Irving (7-of-13) shot 11.5 percentage points higher than Harden (11-of-26) from the field, dished out nearly twice as many assists (11 to six), and was nearly mistake free (one turnover to Harden's six).
Oh, and despite their 14-point loss, the Celtics outscored Houston by six points when Irving was on the floor. Harden, meanwhile, was a plus-3.
Harden had a career night and his team got the win, but from an individual standpoint, Irving was the best player on the court Thursday night.
Box Score Nuggets
- James Harden tied a career high with nine 3-pointers, as he led all scorers with 45 points.
- Kyrie Irving paced the Celtics with 23 points.
- Irving also dished out 11 assists to contribute to his seventh double-double of the season.
- The Celtics were out-rebounded 54-38.
- Boston's bench held a 41-27 advantage, largely thanks to an 18-point effort from Jaylen Brown.
- Clint Capela had nine rebounds on each end of the floor.
- Capela grabbed two more offensive boards than the C's tallied as a team (seven).
- Harden made 17 trips to the free-throw line, all coming in the second half.
- Both teams exceeded 30 trips to the free-throw line – Houston had 35 and Boston had 31.
- Harden committed half of his team's 12 turnovers.
- Twelve players tallied a steal, but nobody had more than one.
Quote of the Night
It has to be a collective responsibility. It just can’t be on one person to stop him.
Kyrie Irving on guarding James Harden