HOUSTON ROCKETS EDGE THE BOLTON CELTICS 123-120 IN TOP NBA GAME

Another meeting between the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets. Another instant classic.

After the CELTICS a.k.a the C’s erased a 26-point deficit to stun the Rockets earlier in the season, and the Rockets pulled off a heist of their own Saturday night at Toyota Center. Albeit a less impressive one.

Boston led for the entire fourth quarter, but Trevor Ariza drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 115 with under two minutes to play, and then stole the ball from Kyrie Irving on the ensuing possession, taking it coast-to-coast for the go-ahead layup.

The C’s final attempts to even the score went begging, as Marcus Smart’s game-tying 3-pointer clanged off the rim to give the Rockets a 123-120 win.

Houston overcame a huge day from the Boston bench (67 points), and rough night from James Harden and Chris Paul (11-for-29 from the field combined) to extend its winning streak to 15 games. Despite off nights from Kyrie Irving (18 points) and Al Horford, the C’s were in prime position to win the game, but were unable to close out the NBA’s best team.

Eric Gordon led all scorers with 29 points, while Harden added 26 and Ariza chipped in with 21. Marcus Morris paced the Celtics with 21 points and Greg Monroe added 18.

With the loss, the Celtics fall to 44-20, while the Rockets improve to 49-13.

Here’s how it all went down:

STARTING FIVE
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes

LIFT OFF
Both teams were hot in the first quarter. The Celtics shot 52.6 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from 3-point land to take a 32-30 lead after the first period.

Houston also was hot, as the Rockets shot 50 percent from the field but just 33.3 percent from long range. The Rockets led by eight with just over two minutes to play, but Boston’s bench closed the quarter on a 12-2 run, buoyed by Monroe and Terry Rozier.

James Harden led all scorers with eight points, while Brown paced the C’s with seven.

NO SEPARATION
The two teams traded blows throughout the second quarter.

Boston opened the stanza with a 10-3 run over the opening 2:27, but Houston responded with a 17-8 run over the next 5:10. The C’s closed the frame on a 14-8 run over the final 4:22 to take a 64-58 lead into the locker rooms.

Boston shot 53.5 percent from the floor and 61.5 percent from 3-point range, while the Rockets hit on just 35 percent of their long-distance attempts.

Harden led all players with 16 points. Rozier paced the C’s with 12 points, while Tatum and Morris each added 10.

TRADING BLOWS
The C’s opened up an eight-point lead early in the third quarter, led by Irving, Tatum and Baynes. Houston would draw even at 74 with 4:22 remaining in the period after a 3-point barrage from Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon.

Both benches traded shots for the remaining four minutes of the third quarter, with neither team gaining more than a three-point edge. A Monroe layup gave the C’s an 89-86 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Harden paced everyone with 21 points,(they usually save him up for the last quarter) while Monroe led Boston with 14 points after three.

IT’S A SHOOTOUT
Morris and Gordon went back-and-forth in the first half of the fourth, as Morris poured in 11 points in the first seven minutes. Gordon answered with 12 over that span to keep the C’s lead at 108-15.

Boston’s lead remained at three until a Harden fastbreak layup cut the edge to 113-112 with 2:10 to play. After a Horford hook shot pushed it back to three, Ariza drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game. On the ensuing possession, Chris Paul stole the ball from Irving and went coast-to-coast to give Houston its first lead of the period.

After a series of free throws, the C’s had one final chance to tie the game. Morris hit Smart with a full-court pass, but the last-second attempt went begging, sealing Houston’s win.

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