Make no mistake about it, the Houston Rockets are every bit as bad as their 1-16 record would indicate.
Nevertheless, it was refreshing to see the Boston Celtics take care of business as they were supposed to against such an opponent, dealing the Rockets their 15th straight loss and keeping them winless on the road in a 108-90 victory at TD Garden Monday, moving to 10-8 on the season.
The Celtics, who welcomed back both Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III to the lineup, are now a season-high two games above .500 and have won three straight games, six of their last seven and eight of their last 11 since starting the season 2-5.
Here are some takeaways from Boston's win, their second-largest of the season following Friday's 22-point runaway over the Los Angeles Lakers:
Message received after sluggish first half
The Celtics were up 52-47 at the break, but trailed by as many as six points in the first half against a Rockets team that's yet to win on the road this season.
After shooting 17 of 42 in the first half, Boston quickly caught fire in the third quarter, connecting on 12 of 24 shots and outscoring Houston by a 34-16 margin in the frame -- including a 24-3 run at one point.
Brown ignited the run, scoring 12 points in the third.
"We played with a little bit more energy," said Brown, who had one point had 10 points in a span of 65 seconds. "Defensively, we want to maintain an identity and try to keep teams under 100 [points]. That's hard to do in the NBA, regardless of who's on the floor.
Jaylen and Jayson co-exist
Following an eight-game absence in which the team went 5-3, keeping an eye on Brown's role on the offensive end alongside Tatum would warrant extra attention for the Celtics Monday.
Through one game with both players back in the lineup: No issues.
Tatum maintained his role as the primary scoring option, pouring in a game-high 30 points on 10 of 22 shooting for his fifth straight game leading Boston.
In all, Tatum led the Celtics in six of the eight games Brown missed.
But Brown, over 23 minutes, had a solid night in his own right, chipping in 19 points on 6 of 13 shooting, including 3 of 6 from 3-point land.
"I didn't feel great, I was a little tight today. But we got the win," Brown said. "We keep finding ways to win, I'll find ways to get my body back to 100%."
Tatum has had more efficient games, to be sure, particularly from deep; he was just 1 for 9 from 3-point range, though his one make did tie him with Larry Bird for fifth-most in franchise history.
Still, it was his fourth straight game with at least 30 points. The last time Tatum topped 30 in five straight games: Feb. 23-March 4, 2020.
Schroder returns to bench
With Brown on a pitch count, so to speak, Schroder still played 28 minutes -- tied for second on the team with Marcus Smart, behind only Tatum (34) on Monday.
Schroder still managed 18 points, but on 6 of 15 shooting.
In eight games starting for Brown, Schroder shot 52.3% from the floor, averaging 23.1 points per game and just under 36 minutes. His 40% shooting performance from the floor against the Rockets was his worst since prior to Brown's injury.
So, should Schroder go right back into the starting lineup at the expense of, say, Marcus Smart? It's far too soon to tell, especially given how abysmal the Rockets are. Smart was relatively efficient again on Monday, shooting 3 of 7 (1 of 3 from 3) and finishing as a plus-24 -- second on the team -- with five assists.
Very quietly, that's back-to-back double-doubles for the 35-year-old Al Horford, who followed up a 10-point, 11-rebound effort against the Oklahoma City Thunder with 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Rockets.
Horford played 24 minutes, shooting 4 of 9 from the floor but 3 of 5 from 3-point range, dishing out four assists and adding two steals.
Horford is averaging 13.2 points per game on the season and is up to four double-doubles.
Boston will try to finish off a perfect homestand on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets, with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m. at the TD Garden.