Following a pair of encouraging wins after the trade deadline, the Boston Celtics quickly returned to their inconsistent ways, dropping a pair of winnable games against the Pelicans and Mavericks. It was unclear, then, exactly what Celtics team might show up for tonight’s matchup with the lowly Houston Rockets. Fortunately, this time, they came to play, riding a big second half to blow out the Rockets, 118-102.
Jayson Tatum (26 points) and Jaylen Brown (22) were their typically excellent selves, but it was the duo of Robert Williams and deadline acquisition Evan Fournier who led the way for the Celtics tonight. Williams flirted with a triple-double, posting a career-high 20 points alongside nine rebounds and eight assists, while Fournier posted his first standout performance in Celtics Green with 23 points and seven three-pointers (six of which came in the fourth quarter). Christian Wood recorded a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double for Houston, but the short-handed Rockets just couldn’t keep pace.
As far as energy and execution goes, early results were encouraging for the Celtics tonight. They moved the ball well (10 assists in the first quarter), found a decent stroke from deep (6-of-12 from three) and seemed to be playing more decisively than in recent games. The Rockets put up a tough fight, however; running an extremely youthful lineup, they came out of the gates looking to target mismatches with a playoff-like intensity. Both offenses kept the pressure on, and they entered the second quarter with the game still relatively close, 33-25.
Unsurprisingly, Williams’ return to the lineup helped supercharge the offense early on. He’s an ideal fit to help keep the ball moving on the offensive end, with his gravity at the rim keeping teams honest in the paint and his vision as a passer helping find open looks for his teammates. Both aspects were on display in the first quarter, as he connected on all three of his shot attempts at the rim in the first quarter, and dished three assists to boot.
Boston’s energy started to dwindle as the second quarter progressed. Every shot seemed to find the front of the rim, and the offensive slowdown created an opening for Houston. The Rockets clawed their way to a one point lead on the back of a 11-2 run near the midpoint of the quarter. After connecting on 50% of their threes in the first quarter, they missed their first eight consecutively in the second. Thankfully, this served as something of a wake up call, and they closed the quarter with a 7-0 run to lead 52-44 at the halftime break.
The Celtics kept the pressure on as the second half, playing some tough defense and speeding down the court in transition. The Rockets’ chippy energy started to diminish, and Boston was able to exploit some youthful mistakes in their defense. The lead crossed the double digit threshold early in the quarter, and pushed ahead as high as 18 as the clock ticked down.
The Rockets found some answers as the third quarter came to a close, however. Led by a dynamic performance from Wood, they ripped off an 8-0 run to cut the burgeoning Boston lead down to size. Despite some sloppy play, the Celtics were able to break the run in the closing seconds behind a three-pointer from Tatum. They entered the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead, 82-70.
The final quarter kicked off in exciting fashion, as the newly acquired Fournier finally got in on the action. With the game teetering on the verge of a blowout, the former Magic forward finally came to life, connecting on a whopping six three-pointers in seven minutes to guide the Celtics back to an 18-point advantage. The explosion was exactly what the Celtics needed; there simply wasn’t enough time for the Rockets to overcome the lead, and both teams emptied their benches to play out the final minutes.
The blowout did come with some consequences, however. Concerningly, Jaylen Brown came up limping after suffering knee-to-knee contact while going up for a pass midway through the quarter. He departed the game immediately, and did not return for the rest of the evening.
Next up, the Celtics continue their homestand by hosting the Charlotte Hornets, this Sunday at 6 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.