Houston came out strong in the all red uniforms to start the game and were led early by James Harden who shot a blistering hot 5-8 three pointers whilst logging a quick 17 points in the first quarter alone. With Chris Paul out, James Harden was extremely effective driving also, as the Celtics collapsed on Harden he showed great court vision handing out 4 assists to teammates. As both teams sized up one another to start, the Celtics had a nice spread of points with 8 scorers in the first quarter.
With the free flowing scoring on tap for Houston, it took a heady rim rocking effort by Jaylen Brown to show the Celtics had indeed came to play.
Al Horford came alive in the second quarter, logging a much needed three to curb the Rockets momentum, he also was on the end of a nice alley-oop play and got inside for a nice soft hook shot. A stunning shot by Kyrie Irving followed by a pair of back to back three pointers by Marcus Morris, clawed the team back to five point deficit.
Late in the second quarter the Rockets went away from the inside game that helped them create a decent lead early and settled for more of a long range arsenal, hoisting 21 threes. The Rockets also gave up a pair of tech fouls; Chris Paul in street clothes from the bench and Clint Capela for an extended rim hang, these both slowed the game down to end the half as the home crowd got decidedly rowdy. A 20-6 run by Boston to the end the first half including some great plays by Marcus Smart.
The Celtics relinquished quite a few second chance opportunities as Houston ended the third quarter with 12 offensive rebounds to 4, this led to an array of second chance opportunities for Clint Capella, Eric Gordon and co. P.J. Tucker finally hit on his fourth three point attempt as the Rockets looked to stretch a lead. Not to be outdone though, Irving and Hayward had a pair of threes as the Celtics tried to match the Rockets three point shooting. In what was a memorable third quarter, Harden and Irving went basket for basket for a decent stretch of the game. Harden eventually went to the bench on a dizzying 8-of-16 from 3.
Here's a clip of Kyrie vs Harden on back-to-back possessions. This is fun. pic.twitter.com/oH8yj2sTDy— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) December 28, 2018
The fourth quarter was all Rockets second unit as the Celtics reserves struggled to keep pace and let the lead slip out to 13 points. When Harden had returned to the game with a comfortable lead, he continued to hit big shots. Brad Stevens ran with the bench for quite a while and at the 6 minute mark, an eleven point deficit was extremely hard to overcome. Harden ended the game with 45 points shooting 9-18 from three, Eric Gordon fouled out with 20 points and big man Clint Capela had a solid 25 points and 18 rebounds.
Marcus Morris Sr. was ejected late in the game for his second technical but by then the game was in hand for Houston. Boston has a day off before facing Memphis on Sunday.