BOSTON – Even while playing a more physical brand of basketball and doing a better job defensively, the Boston Celtics still found themselves in an uphill climb most of Wednesday night against Houston which led the Celtics 58-52 at the half.
After falling behind by double digits, the Celtics were within 52-49 following a Jae Crowder lay-up.
But that would be as close as the Celtics would get for the remainder of the quarter as Houston seemingly closed it out with a 6-0 spurt only for Al Horford to hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Celtics stayed within striking distance throughout the first half, and led by as many as four points (16-12) following a 3-pointer by Jonas Jerebko who got the start in place of Amir Johnson.
That wasn’t the only tinkering head coach Brad Stevens did with the first unit which included rookie Jaylen Brown who was in for Marcus Smart.
Houston scored five of the last seven points of the first which put them ahead 27-24 after one period of play.
Boston spent most of the second quarter trailing, but stayed within one possession for a good chunk of the second.
A 3-point play by Patrick Beverley was part of a 9-1 spurt by the Rockets that put them ahead 40-33 following a dunk by Sam Dekker with just under eight minutes to play in the first half.
Houston would lead by as many as 11 points, but give the Celtics credit.
The memo about being more physical was definitely read by most of the team as they consistently put the Rockets at the free throw line instead of doing what they’ve done in recent games which is to allow easy lay-ups.
It created a foul situation in which a couple of players, Jerebko and Jaylen Brown, each had four personal fouls in the first half. The only Rocket player with any semblance of foul trouble was Patrick Beverley who had three.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of play.
Points just seem to come so easy for Thomas, even though we all know that’s not the case. He had 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting along with two assists.
He’s not just an MVP candidate in name only. Harden is as dominant a scorer as we have in the NBA currently. And he can do it in lots of ways, evident by him tallying 12 points despite shooting 2-for-9 from the field.
He got the game’s first two points with a pair of free throws, and proved to be a steady contributor for the rest of the half. He finished with 11 first-half points.
He has been-there, done-that when it comes to getting an in-season start. And like he’s done in the past, Jerebko made the most of his opportunity. He had seven points and six rebounds in the first half.
He had 11 points in 12 minutes off the Houston bench while logging 12 minutes.
Making a rare start for the Celtics, Brown struggled to score as well as defend without fouling. He had two points in the first half while missing three of his four shot attempts. And making matters worse, Brown had four personal fouls in only 13 minutes.