Celtics snap losing streak, win physical battle with Rockets, 120-109

Celtics snap losing streak, win physical battle with Rockets, 120-109

BOSTON – For weeks, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has implored his players to play more physical.

Well the call was answered on Wednesday as the Celtics played arguably their best game of the season in knocking off the Houston Rockets 120-109.


For Boston (27-18), the victory snapped a three-game losing streak but more important, it showed that the Celtics could be physical and still win.

The physical play wasn't the only twist we saw with the Celtics, who started Jonas Jerebko and Jaylen Brown in place of Amir Johnson and Marcus Smart. They joined a starting five that included Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Al Horford.

After the score was tied at 98, the Celtics went on a 13-2 run that put them in firm control of the game.

Thomas had another monster game for Boston, scoring a game-high 38 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter. Boston also got a strong game from Crowder who tallied his second double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds along with four assists. Horford had a near double-double with 20 points and nine rebounds.

For the Rockets (34-15), James Harden led the way with a double-double of 30 points and 12 assists to go with six rebounds.

Boston took a slim 88-86 lead into the fourth after Harden made three free throws late in the third quarter for what turned out to be the final points of the quarter.

It was a relatively close game in the first quarter with neither team leading by more than five points. But the Rockets began to pull away in the second as they pushed their lead to as many as 11 points.

But the Celtics, playing the kind of physical, nothing-easy-around-the-rim basketball that we have rarely seen from them this season, showed the kind of fight we have seldom seen from them this season.

While Boston’s foul total was on the rise, so was the amount of gritty plays that allowed them to keep pace with a Houston team that came into the game with the third-best record in the NBA.

Houston opened the fourth quarter by scoring five of the first seven points which included a 3-pointer by Ryan Anderson that put the Rockets ahead 91-90. He finished with 19 points and five rebounds.

Boston countered with a 3-pointer by Horford (his second make in as many attempts at that point in the game) that put Boston back ahead 93-91 only for the Rockets to make it a 93-all game following a Clint Capela dunk.

And as we have seen repeatedly this season, Thomas went into takeover mode.

But as much as the Celtics have relied on him to generate offense, it was their defense that really dominated the night.

They forced Houston into turning the ball over 17 times which led to 23 points. Boston won the rebounding war by a dominant 48-30 margin which heavily factored in them outscoring Houston 64-48 on points in the paint.

Jaylen Brown after concussion: 'My mom definitely said no more dunking'

Jaylen Brown after concussion: 'My mom definitely said no more dunking'

In his first meeting with the media since suffering an ugly concussion, Jaylen Brown was willing to make jokes about the moment which terrified Boston Celtics players and fans.

"Yeah, my mom definitely said no more dunking," Brown said Thursday at Celtics shootaround. "That's what she told me."

But it wasn't all jokes from Brown, who said he was eyeing a return for Sunday's game against the Kings. The Boston Celtics forward was frank about the severity of the moment.


"I think it's just a blessing that I didn't need a stretcher or anything to have to walk off the floor with," Brown said. "It's just a scary situation to be in. You never want to be in that situation where people are saying, 'Pray for you.'"

During the Celtics' win over the Timberwolves on March 9, Brown went for a dunk in transition, but slipped off the rim and fell backward onto his head in an awkward position. He convulsed on the court for a moment before the Celtics training staff rushed to treat him. After a few minutes, he rose and walked off the court.

"When I fell, I was completely knocked out," he said. "I remember them saying, 'Yeah, we're going to need a stretcher,' and something came over me and I just got right up. ... I remember waking up and there was a bunch of people standing around me and I was like, 'What the hell is going on?' And I had no idea I had been out for 30 seconds or whatever they said I was out for. I just remember waking up, and there were a bunch of people around me and I tried to get up and they were like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa.' And I was like, 'What's the big deal.' And that's all I remember to be honest."


Brown has missed five games, but could end that streak at six if he can return Sunday in Sacramento. Brown is averaging 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 30.9 minutes per game this season.


    Gordon Hayward gives update on ankle rehab

    File Photo

    Gordon Hayward gives update on ankle rehab

    Gordon Hayward is trying to translate his rehab off the court onto the hardwood. The Boston Celtics forward detailed the latest steps he's taking in his rehab from his ankle injury.

    “Rehab is going well, still progressing on the AlterG (anti-gravity treadmill), trying to get where I can run on a regular treadmill, so 100-percent bodyweight,” Hayward said in a video posted to the Celtics' Twitter account. “Next step after that will be jumping and then hopefully I can incorporate some of that — the running and jumping on the treadmill — to running and jumping on the basketball court, so that’s where I’m at.”

    Hayward suffered his ankle injury in the first five minutes of the season opener. He has not ruled out returning during the 2018 playoffs, though Brad Stevens continues to insist that Hayward will not play again this season.

    “The hope is still there,” Hayward told ESPN on March 9. “It’s something where I’m really honestly not even thinking about it. I know we’re getting toward the end of the year. It’s something that I’m still working toward, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”