Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown nearly pulled off the most impressive comeback of the decade. Russell Westbrook swiped a lead Boston gained through some of its best defense of the season, his devastating put back put the Celtics back five points. Then Marcus Smart nailed a three and the Celts managed to foul Westbrook, who missed one of two at the line.
So Houston fouled up three, as teams do in those situations. Tatum missed the first, putting Boston in a nearly impossible situation down three with one free throw. They tied the game anyway, with James Harden looking behind him the split second that Tatum launched an intentional miss off the front of the rim that bounced right back.
Harden secured it, but Smart blew up the play and funneled the ball back to Brown, who drilled a wide open three. The play will unfortunately be forgotten, as Houston took the game in overtime as the Celtics failed to build on a one-point lead in overtime and missed six straight shots to close overtime. Houston scored points during that stretch, enough to win.
Both sides spoke in the locker room following another epic finish between the two.
Jaylen Brown: “We actually go over those situations in practice.”
Brown sat in perfect position above the three-point line to deliver one of the biggest shots of the season. He closed February scoring over 20 points per game, complementing Tatum’s best month ever with gritty defense against James Harden and drilling open looks off the ball.
Jayson Tatum: “JB got a good shot.”
After missing five straight shots in overtime, the Celtics generated a final fadeaway look for Brown using a flare screen. Tatum liked the look he got. The physicality Houston hit them with defensively prevented them from piling up buckets before that.
Gordon Hayward: “That sounds like something Smart would do.”
Hayward shot 8-for-16 and saw good movement early. The Rockets propensity to switch lured the Celtics into an isolation game that fizzled late into overtime.
Houston Rockets —
Russell Westbrook: “If (leaving me open) is what teams want to do, good luck.”
Westbrook found an open lane above the rim for the final of his devastating 18 points in the paint that helped him reach 40 again. He’s one of the hottest players in the league, despite his shoddy three-point percentage — and luring him into those shots hasn’t helped opponents.
James Harden: “I just couldn’t make a shot, but it’s part of the game.”
Nothing came easy for the Rockets’ offense, scoring the least points they had in a first half all season. “We needed it,” he said, as the Rockets’ offense erupted in the third to take control of the game until late in the fourth.
Mike D’Antoni: “We have to win the ones where we don’t shoot well.”