Houston Rockets Falter Down the Stretch in Loss to Celtics
By Ben Casey
The Houston Rockets had a lead in the fourth quarter, but ultimately could not match Isaiah Thomas’s heroics. They’ve now lost 6 of their last 9 games.
The Rockets’ second and final matchup against the Boston Celtics did not go as they had hoped. Just one game removed from ending the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 5 game losing streak, Houston ended Boston’s as well. Just like the last one, a rough fourth quarter squashed Red Nation’s chances of securing a win.
As usual, James Harden still had a good night, according to the stat sheet at least. He posted 30 points and 12 assists despite shooting just 33.3% from the field. However, he also coughed up the ball 7 times and was called for a crucial flagrant foul with 5 minutes to go.
Ryan Anderson also poured in 19 points on 5/8 shooting, but had the worst plus/minus of the night at -19. Curiously enough, actually, no starter was better than -14 in that category, and no bench player was worse than +8.
Eric Gordon was a late scratch for this outing with lower back tightness, but could have made a huge difference had he played. Boston’s bench didn’t do a good job guarding the Rockets’ second unit, and he could have feasted on long threes.
As a team, Houston got outplayed in nearly every category by the Celtics. Boston won the rebounding battle by a long shot (48 to 30!!!!), shot the ball more accurately, posted more assists, and came away with more steals than the Rockets. Looking at those stats, it’s a miracle that the Beard and company even had a fighting chance.
With about 5 minutes left in the game, the Rockets were in position to win. Only down by two, Harden drove and was fouled on a layup attempt, but that’s were the aforementioned flagrant foul came in.
In what looked like an accident, Harden hit
in the mouth after the play. It might have gone unnoticed in normal circumstances, but the hit was just poorly placed enough to draw blood. Despite it seeming to be purely accidental, the refs called it a flagrant foul. Things went downhill from there.
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The Rockets couldn’t stop Isaiah Thomas down the stretch, allowing him to put up 8 of his 38 points during the final 5 minutes. After being tied at 98, the Celtics ended the match on a 22-11 run.
At 34-15, the Rockets are still well above .500. Compared to where most pundits predicted they’d be at this point in the season, they’re playing quite well. However, they haven’t given fans much to be excited about over the last few games.
After their second 9 game winning streak of the season, Houston has struggled to find coherence and consistency for two weeks. It’s not time to worry yet, but the next few games before the All-Star break could be telling.
On Friday, the Rockets will travel to Philadelphia to take on Joel Embiid and The Process. They haven’t dropped three in a row all season, so that game will be one that they will want to win for morale’s sake.
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