HOUSTON - There’s no such thing as a good loss; talk to any athlete competing at a high level and they’ll confirm this.
But in defeat, there are teachable moments that can be of great benefit down the road.
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Here are five takeaways from the Celtics' 127-113 loss at Houston.
The Celtics have been all over the map when it comes to rebounding this season. When they’re good, they can beat anybody. When they struggle, they become an easy mark. The latter was indeed what we saw against Houston, which crushed Boston on the boards, 54-38. They were particularly impressive on the offensive boards with a decisive 16-7 advantage, which allowed them to enjoy an 18-8 advantage in second-chance points. It’s easy to point to the dominant showing by Clint Capela (24 points, 18 rebounds). But it was Houston’s perimeter players who were able to grab timely offensive boards that really hurt the Celtics. That will be among the many areas Boston will look to shore up heading into Saturday night in Memphis.
KYRIE TOO UNSELFISH?
Kyrie Irving is in a really good place now with his game, perfectly content at getting his teammates involved early and often. It’s a great quality to have in a leader, particularly one with as many tricks in the offensive arsenal as Irving has. But there are some games where he needs to lean more on his scoring than getting others involved. Thursday was one of those games. Houston was being carried by James Harden, who found a rhythm in the second half before finishing with a game-high 45 points, which was the eighth consecutive game he has had at least 30 points. Irving had a double-double - 23 points and 10 assists -while taking just 13 shots. Harden had more shot attempts by halftime. Now, am I suggesting that he become a Harden-like shot-chucker? Of course not. But 13 shots for a player as offensively talented as Irving is too few.
This was another night in which Brown delivered a few highlight-worthy plays. And when you look Brown finishing with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, a good night for him right?
While you have to love the fact that he had a strong scoring night, half of his points came in the fourth quarter when Houston’s control of the game was never really challenged.
You knew the Celtics would miss Aron Baynes (left ring finger fracture), but it's becoming more apparent on some nights more than others. There’s no way of knowing if having him would have been enough to knock off the Rockets. Still, there’s no question his presence would have been a plus in trying to keep Clint Capela (24 points, 18 rebounds) from going off the way he did.
Harden’s dribble-drive game is exceptional, although on Thursday he did most of his damage from 3-point range, where he connected on 9 of 18 3's, the most 3-point makes and attempts against the Celtics all-time.
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But more than rebounding, Baynes’ presence would have been a huge help in defending the rest of Houston’s players who attacked the defense off the dribble and had very little resistance once they got into the lane.
The loss dropped Boston’s road record to 9-9. With the next two games at Memphis and San Antonio, there’s a good chance that Boston will slip below .500 on the road, which is something they aren’t all that familiar with in recent years. At this point last season, they were 13-5 away from the TD Garden. And the year before that, the Celtics got off to an 11-7 start on the road. Injuries and illnesses have been factors, for sure. Still, the bigger challenge has been unlike past years when the Celtics were among the league’s hunters, they came into this season as one of the favorites and thus, teams get up for them a little more than usual. And the Celtics readily admit that they have not handled that challenge as well as they should. Strides have been made in recent weeks, for sure. Still, it remains a concern, particularly when you see their upcoming road schedule.
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