C's Crush Rockets To Close Out Incredible Stretch
HOUSTON – A certain reporter from Celtics.com questioned Brad Stevens Monday night about how his team was able to play with high intensity throughout its five-games-in-seven-nights stretch.
“Is this our fifth in seven?” he asked after downing the Rockets, not an ounce of sarcasm in his voice. “I didn’t know that.”
Without looking at the calendar, no one would have known that after watching Boston demolish Houston Monday night at the Toyota Center to the tune of 111-95.
Boston looked fresh. It looked energized. It looked confident that it was about to sweep a back-to-back on the road in the Western Conference and win its fifth game in six tries.
This team didn’t give two hoots about the back-to-back or the five-in-seven. In fact, it relished the challenge.
“This is what we pride ourselves on,” Marcus Smart said with a touch of swagger.
“This group is built for it,” Jae Crowder added shortly thereafter.
Both of those statements rang true Monday night.
The Celtics marched into the Toyota Center with their heads held high after downing the Thunder one night prior. They were set to take on James Harden, Dwight Howard and the Rockets, who were hungry to grab a win after three straight defeats.
The first half did not go quite as scripted for Boston. It fell behind by double-digits not once, but on two separate occasions during the second quarter alone. Not exactly an obstacle that a team wants to face at the tail-end of a brutal stretch of the schedule.
The C’s were supposed to fade from the Rockets, and they were supposed to fade fast. Instead, they surged, and they surged right past their hosts.
Houston jumped out to a 42-27 lead just three minutes into the second quarter. The Rockets, on the back of six 3-pointers and 12 points from Trevor Ariza, appeared poised to drop 70 on the C’s during the first half.
But then Boston’s pride began to show face.
The Celts held Houston scoreless for the next four minutes of play while they caught their groove at the offensive end. Tyler Zeller, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart combined to score the team’s next 11 points, all while the Rockets managed just two, to pull back to within six.
Terrence Jones and James Harden then got Houston back on track by scoring five straight points, and before anyone knew it, the home team was back on top by 13 at the 3:19 mark of the second quarter.
Storming back into a game after trailing by double-digits is rare for a team to accomplish once during its fifth game in seven nights. It’s nearly unheard of for a team to storm back twice, let alone twice during the same quarter.
This group, however, is built to do it.
Crowder’s quote was a subtle reference to Boston’s youth and depth. Both were on display as it rallied yet again to close the first half.
A new cast of players, including Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley, Crowder, Smart and Jared Sullinger, came together to push the Celtics right back into this game. They answered Houston’s 13-point lead with a 15-0 run that was highlighted by steals, slams and silky smooth Js.
“I thought Amir was unbelievable in that stretch,” Stevens said after the game. “I thought Marcus Smart was really good in that stretch, (and) Avery, obviously. I could go down the list of all the guys that were in there with that group. That was a positive.”
At least for the Celtics.
From Boston’s point of view, the glass was half full. It had just erased two double-digit deficits over the final nine minutes of the second quarter and took all of the momentum into its locker room at halftime.
Imagine how the Rockets felt after blowing two such leads to a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and for the fifth time in seven nights.
Deflated? Depressed? Demoralized?
It certainly appeared so during the second half.
Boston ran circles around Houston over the final 24 minutes of action. It grabbed eight steals and shot nearly 48 percent from the field during the second half, all the while limiting the Rockets to a measly 40 points.
The Celtics pulled ahead by as many as 29 points during the fourth quarter, drawing the boo-birds out at the Toyota Center.
Monday night was not supposed to unfold in this manner. If either of these teams was going to pull ahead by 29 points, it was supposed to be the Rockets.
That’s what common sense would have told you, at least if you were an outsider to Boston’s locker room.
If you happened to be an insider, you were licking your chops for your favorite type of night: the challenge of overcoming all odds.
Boston did so yet again, and now it has won five of its last six, including four victories during its difficult five-in-seven stretch.
It just swept a back-to-back on the road in the Western Conference against two teams that many considered to be title contenders prior to Opening Night, and it did so after facing an uphill climb on both nights.
Don’t blink past those two previous sentences. They hold weight.
The Celtics are flying back to Boston with planefull of confidence. These guys know that they can overcome any obstacle in the books.
And they pride themselves in doing so.