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Celtics inexplicably lose to Rockets, 111-109

Boston had a chance at the end after Houston led for the final 29 minutes.

Boston Celtics v Houston Rockets Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Jabari Smith Jr. scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds, Kevin Porter Jr. scored 14 points and dished out 13 assists, KJ Martin added 20, and the Houston Rockets stunned the Boston Celtics, winning 111-109. Jalen Green only shot 8-of-29, but he hit a clutch jumper and equally clutch free throws with 10 seconds remaining, and the Rockets got their biggest win of the season. They grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and scored 54 points in the paint.

Jaylen Brown had a great game, scoring 43 points on 16-of-25 shooting. Conversely, Jayson Tatum had a rough game, only shooting 8-of-22. He had what appeared to be an open layup to tie the game at the end, but he had a poor angle and couldn’t finish. The Rockets escaped with a two-point win after Boston almost came back trailing by 11 with four minutes to play. They struggled from deep, shooting 12-of-42.

Houston improves to 16-52 for the season. They’re not just the worst team in the league, they might be the worst team of the last five years, marred by internal dysfunction and lack of development from their young players. But tonight was their Super Bowl, and they came out with more effort, more intensity, and stole a win against a Celtic team that hopes to compete for a championship.

Jalen Green scored 16 points in the 1st quarter and the Rockets led 31-29. Houston air-balled three of their first four shots, but Jabari Smith got the scoring started with a three and a putback layup. He’s played well over the past three games, averaging 21.7 points and 10.0 rebounds on 52.2 percent shooting and 47.1 percent from three. Malcolm Brogdon hit a three at the buzzer and led the Celtics with 10 points off the bench.

The 2nd quarter opened with Green hitting a free throw after a Marcus Smart technical foul. Smart supported Fred VanVleet’s viral rant lambasting the referee Ben Taylor, and of course, it was Taylor who gave Smart the tech. The Celtics struggled at the beginning of the 2nd quarter and the Rockets took a 38-31 lead. Tatum missed 8 of his first 9 shots, but Derrick White got an offensive rebound putback then hit a three at the 6:47 mark to tie the score at 38.

While Jaylen Brown was unstoppable, shooting 4-of-5 after he entered the game, the Rockets weren’t backing down, and Jae’Sean Tate led the offensive attack with his crafty downhill play. The game was tied at 50 with 2:55 left in the half and Houston went on a 9-0 run over the next two minutes. They led 62-55 at half.

Brown led the Celtics with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, and he was the only guy to put up a notable stat line. Tatum only shot 3-of-12, as the team shot 8-of-25 from deep and had 7 turnovers. Houston shot 17 free throws and collected 7 offensive rebounds. They’re not good at much, but they do lead the league in offensive rebounding. Smith scored 17 on 6-of-7 shooting (5-of-5 from three), KJ Martin had 11, and Tate scored 9.

At the beginning of the second half, Smart was late running back on defense as he argued a call, then KJ Martin beat him up the floor and finished an athletic dunk. Houston took a 68-58 lead, Joe Mazzulla promptly called an early timeout, then he got a mysterious technical foul. The Rockets were playing with more urgency and physicality, but Jaylen singlehandedly tried to shift the momentum with this loud fastbreak slam:

Tatum responded by scoring eight straight points, seemingly getting out of his offensive funk. But the Rockets were grabbing offensive rebounds at will, and the Celtics couldn’t retake the lead. Brogdon entered the game and they got as close as three, but Houston responded by scoring on their next three possessions. Tatum hit a timely deep ball with 8.7 seconds remaining, and the Rockets led 85-80 going into the 4th quarter. They only shot 39 percent but grabbed six offensive rebounds.

The Celtics played well at the beginning of the 4th and cut the lead to 87-85, but coming out of the timeout, rookie Usman Garuba hit two straight threes, Martin hit one the next possession, and the Rockets took a 98-89 lead with 7:18 remaining. Each time Jaylen tried to put the team on his back, Houston responded by getting an easy bucket in the paint.

Down 107-99 with 2:41 remaining, Brogdon got a steal and the Celtics could have scored in transition and stayed alive, but Smart got his fourth turnover of the night. It looked like the Celtics had given up, but with 1:44 remaining, Brogdon finished an and-1 layup, cutting the lead to 106-104. Then Tate got called for a foul on Smart while fighting for rebounding position — a clutch winning play after his rough night. The Celtics trailed 106-105 after Smart’s free throw. Down 108-105 after a Jalen Green elbow jumper, Jaylen Brown got fouled shooting a three and hit 2-of-3 free throws.

With 52 seconds to play, the Celtics forced a Martin miss, but he got his own offensive rebound, and on the scramble for the loose ball, Boston appeared to secure possession, but Tatum — trying to save the ball from going out of bounds — threw it to a Rocket. Green sunk two more free throws, Brown scored a quick layup on the other end, and the Celtics trailed 110-109 with 8.7 seconds left. After Jabari Smith hit 1-of-2 free throws, Tatum found a driving lane but couldn’t convert the contested layup, and the Rockets won 111-109.

The Celtics fall to 47-22 and look to bounce back this Wednesday, as they travel to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves.

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