Led by their tenacious defense, the Boston Celtics destroyed the Rockets, 111-95, on Monday at Toyota Center in Houston. If you turned on the game in the late third quarter, you'd assume the Celtics dominated from the opening tip. But Houston actually led by 15 points early in the second quarter.
After that, though, it wasn't much of a contest.
The Celtics roared back to enter halftime tied, 55-55. Midway through the third, Boston led 61-60, when a few players got into a minor scuffle along the baseline.
Then, with the Rockets lying on the ground, gasping for air, the Celtics stepped on their throat.
Led by six steals and 13 points by a red-hot Avery Bradley, the Celtics sprinted to a massive 42-14 run over the next 11 minutes, extending their lead to 103-74. Over this stretch, the Celtics had a 166.7 Offensive Rating and 60.9 Defensive Rating, led by 13 points by Avery Bradley and lockdown defense by Marcus Smart.
The Rockets already entered the game playing without much enthusiasm, but the Celtics sucked every ounce of life they had in them. Boston's defense translated that play into easy buckets on offense. During the run, the Celtics shot 17-of-25. The Rockets had more turnovers (7) than made field goals (6).
The Rockets did make a late run against Boston's reserves, but before garbage time (6:56 mark of the fourth quarter), the Celtics had a terrific 85.3 Defensive Rating.
Bradley finished with 21 points while playing highly effective defense over 20 minutes.
Isaiah Thomas, as usual, led the Celtics with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Thomas carved up the Rockets defense, ultimately leading to 6 assists and secondary assists.
Marcus Smart scored only 4 points on 1-of-11 shooting, but was superb. He had 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals, and played feisty defense no matter who he defended.
The Celtics, now 6-4, with the NBA's sixth-best Net Rating, host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday at TD Garden.