Tuesday’s Loss in Houston Served as Test of Patience, Discipline for C's

HOUSTON –The Boston Celtics’ seven-game winning streak came to a halt Tuesday night in Houston. What it largely came down to, was a lack of both patience and discipline on the defensive end.

Boston committed 26 personal fouls, which led the Rockets to a 37-of-42 performance from the free-throw line, marking the most such makes and attempts the Celtics have allowed all season. The C’s, meanwhile, ended up with 17 fewer free-throw makes (20) and attempts (25), which proved to be all the difference during their 116-105 loss at Toyota Center.

What hurt the C’s, particularly down the stretch, was biting on pump fakes from long distance and the mid-range. They fouled Houston on multiple threes and deep twos, most of which were drawn by James Harden (18 attempts) and Russell Westbrook (13 attempts).

“You gotta do your best to guard them hard without fouling,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said following the defeat. “I think a lot of teams, and us too, you get tentative because you are concerned about the foul. So that probably was part of it and we just didn't have our normal ball pressure. But they put you in a tough spot. They're good.”

Though against players like Harden and Westbrook, who are elite at drawing contact, “It’s definitely easier said than done," according to Gordon Hayward. "They attack, just their ability to hit shots makes you want to jump. Certainly, we’ve got to be better at that.”

And typically, they are. Boston entered the night allowing an average of 23.5 free-throw attempts per game, proving that this was an anomaly. But it still served as a great reminder, especially for the younger players, about how important it is to be patient and disciplined while defending jumpers.

“It’s not easy being in that moment – knowing not to jump on a shot fake, but you do it,” said Jayson Tatum, who found himself guarding Harden on several defensive possessions. “We’ve just gotta be better. There’s a lot of things that we gotta work on from this game, to learn from, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s one game. On to the next one.”

The Celtics are also excited that they’ll get a chance to see Houston again in the near future. They’ll host the Rockets back home in Boston on Feb. 29, and they’ll be ready to make amends.

“We had some really bad fouls, but we’ll see these guys soon again,” said Kemba Walker, who took responsibility for biting on a couple of fakes late in the game. “We’ll be better next time. We’ll be ready and more prepared.”

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