Houston put Tuesday’s game against the Celtics away in a variety of ways during the fourth quarter. The Rockets used the free-throw line. They used their superstars. They used their role players.
The combination of those three areas allowed Houston to string together a 20-4 run that turned a two-point game into an 18-point game as the matchup entered the final two minutes.
The run began at the free-throw line, where James Harden and P.J. Tucker combined to hit five straight freebies in a matter of just 12 seconds. Daniel House Jr. then sandwiched five points around a driving layup from Russell Westbrook, before Harden got back into the act with three more free throws.
His three freebies put Houston up 111-98 with 3:09 remaining in the game, which borderline put the game away. But the Rockets still added more cushion.
Westbrook and Harden, who combined to score 78 points in the game, got right back into the action by scoring the final five points of the run via another driving layup from Westbrook and another trey from Harden.
Harden’s 3-pointer was scored with 1:56 left in the game. Houston subbed him and three other starters out of the game at the next dead ball before it wrapped up a 116-105 victory.
Consistent. Reliable. Underrated.
All of those words describe Gordon Hayward and his strong performance Tuesday night in Houston.
Hayward continued to do what he’s done all season, which is to fly under the radar while providing the Celtics with the type of all-around play that stabilizes the team on a nightly basis. Tuesday night, he stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a blocked shot. His 20 points and six assists each led the team, while his eight boards finished second behind Jayson Tatum’s and Daniel Theis’ nine boards each.
His shooting numbers continued their upward trend as well. Hayward shot 8-for-14 from the field, 2-for-3 from 3-point range, and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. He is now shooting 51.4 percent from the field, 39.3 percent from long range and 87.2 percent from the charity stripe.
Hayward is on track to set new career-best marks in overall field goal percentage and free throw percentage, and he has a shot to catch the best bulk 3-point shooting season of his career as well (41.5 percent in 2012-13).
Box Score Nuggets
- James Harden scored 42 points on only nine made field goals.
- Russell Westbrook was just behind him with 36 points of his own.
- Boston committed 18 turnovers, which marks its fourth-highest total of the season.
- Both teams attempted at least 32 3-pointers, but neither made more than 13.
- Gordon Hayward led Boston with 20 points and six assists.
- Daniel Theis and Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with nine rebounds apiece.
- Westbrook led the game with 10 boards.
- Harden led the game with seven assists.
- Houston made and attempted 17 more free throws than Boston (37-42 to 20-25).
- Robert Covington blocked as many shots, four, as Boston's entire team.
- The Celtics' bench outscored Houston's 26-5.
- Brad Wanamaker led all reserves with 11 points.
- Tatum led all players with four steals.
Quote of the Night
I think that's kinda when I have my worst games, when I am frustrated. I've gotta be more conscious of not letting things like that affect me.
Kemba Walker on frustrations Tuesday night