Keys to the Game: Celtics 134, Rockets 107

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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Key Moment

All the Celtics needed Sunday night in Houston was a little bit of Smart.

Marcus Smart, that is.

Smart, who is coming off the bench right now as he slowly works himself back from a calf injury, was forced to watch an underwhelming start to the game by his team’s defense. Boston allowed the Rockets to jump out to an 18-11 lead thanks to 7-for-12 shooting from the field before Smart checked in at the 7:07 mark of the quarter.

If you know Smart, that didn’t sit well with him, and he wanted to make a difference.

He did so almost immediately by taking a charge just 16 seconds after entering the game. It was at that point, it seemed, that the Celtics turned things around in immediate fashion.

Boston went on to outscore the Rockets 27-16 over the remainder of the quarter while limiting Houston to just five more baskets. To outline that a bit more by the numbers, the C’s allowed seven baskets over the first 4:53 of the game, and after Smart checked in, they allowed only five over the final 7:07 of the opening period.

Smart and the Celtics never looked back from there, as they carried a 38-34 lead into the second frame and went on to pull ahead by as many as 36 points during the second half. Their strong turnaround allowed coach Brad Stevens to limit all of his top players to less than 29 minutes of playing time, which sets the team up well as they head into the remainder of their four-games-in-six-days stretch that began in Houston.

Key Player

Robert Williams, stat stuffer.

The reserve center was absolutely ridiculous in the stat box Sunday night as he logged 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks while playing only 19-plus minutes of the contest. To put that into context, that equals out to about 30 points, 24 rebounds and five blocks over a per-36-minute basis.

That’s pretty good, no?

So, too, is Williams’ plus/minus rating from Sunday night, which finished at plus-17. Again, that’s almost a plus-point per minute while he was on the court.

Brad Stevens said recently that Williams will likely be receiving more playing time as the rest of the season unfolds. Sunday night’s performance was more evidence as to why that is a smart plan for Boston as the season wears on.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Boston led by as many as 36 points during the second half.
  • Thirteen of the 15 Celtics who checked into the game scored at least three points.
  • Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams each grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the game.
  • Jaylen Brown (24 points) and Jayson Tatum (23 points) led Boston in scoring.
  • Victor Oladipo scored a game-high 26 points, although he attempted at least six more shots than both Brown and Tatum.
  • Robert Williams also scored 16 points on 7-for-7 shooting and blocked a game-high three shots.
  • Boston's 51 made field goals were its second-most of the season (52 on Jan. 24 vs. Cleveland).
  • Tatum led the Celtics with six assists, while Kevin Porter Jr. led the game with seven.
  • Boston's bench scored 63 points.
  • Boston outscored Houston 60-32 in the paint.
  • Jae'Sean Tate led the game with four steals.
  • Kemba Walker logged 16 points, six rebounds and five steals during the win.
  • The Celtics made 16 more field goals than Houston.
  • The Rockets made as many free throws (21) as Boston attempted.

Quote of the Night

Brad Stevens on the team's mood since the All-Star break