Garden Report: Avery Bradley's 24 points are no match for Dwight Howard's 32

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports



The Celtics got off to a much better start against the Houston Rockets this time around and they have nobody to thank but Avery Bradley.

Boston's two-guard did a little bit of everything offensively in the first period. He scored easily in transition, nailed his patented off-the-screen jumpers, and made good on both of his three point attempts. The result? 14 points on an efficient six of eight shooting from the floor.

The Cs defensive effort was even more impressive than Bradley's rapid offensive production, though, limiting James Harden and Dwight Howard to just 12 points on a paltry 5 of 14 shooting.

But after finishing the first with a small 27-19 lead, the Celtics were clearly the inferior team during the second quarter.

Houston outscored Boston 33 to 16 in the period thanks in large part to a 15-6 run the Rockets enjoyed during the final minutes of the half. It also didn't help that Bradley - the Celtics hottest offensive weapon - only took and missed one shot.

With the Cs struggling to find offense other than Bradley (Jeff Green 2-10, Jared Sullinger 3-11, Jordan Crawford 3-11), the Rockets continued to pour in shot after shot which ultimately forced the Celtics to face a 52-43 deficit heading into the locker room at halftime.

From there, things got even worse for the Celtics. A lot worse.

Houston came storming out of the locker room to the tune of a 12-2 run that spanned over the course of the first five or six minutes of the frame.

As for Howard, well, he ... uh ... snapped out of it.

The Rockets big man went to work on the Celtics bigs, scoring via a myriad of alley-oop dunks and crafty post moves. Boston simply didn't have an answer for him. Heck, Brad Stevens even tried throwing Vitor Faverani on him but, as you might expect, the rookie didn't provide Howard with much resistance either.

However, in 2013-14 Boston Celtics fashion, the Cs made this game pretty interesting in the fourth quarter.

Led by Jerryd Bayless - 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter - and Brandon Bass (yes, you read that right) the Celtics made a late push and got what was a 19 point Rockets lead heading into the quarter down to as little as 7.

Unfortunately, the oft-used "Hack-a-Howard" strategy didn't end up working in Boston's favor as Dwight responded by earning 10 (10-18) of his game-high 32 points from the charity stripe all while leading his squad to a 104-92 victory.

Follow Tim on Twitter for more on the Celtics.

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