The Boston Celtics took the Houston Rockets for granted Monday night, and they paid the price.
The Celtics laid an egg at the Toyota Center, trailing the NBA's worst team by as many as 13 points before their late rally fell short in a 111-109 loss. Houston entered Monday with an abysmal 15-52 record, but Boston failed to take care of business, shooting just 28.6 percent (12 for 42) from 3-point range in the loss.
All-Star guard Jaylen Brown believed the Celtics' issues extended beyond poor shooting, however.
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"Just a lack of effort, for sure," Brown told reporters after the game. "Fifty-fifty balls, loose balls, they beat us ... It just felt like they won every loose ball. They just wanted it more."
Brown did his part in the scoring department with a season-high 43 points on 16 of 25 shooting. But the Celtics were outhustled by a young, scrappy Rockets team that edged Boston in total rebounds (48 to 38), offensive rebounds (15 to 10), turnovers (10 to 13) and second-chance points (17 to 10).
"We lost tonight not really on execution, but lack of effort," Brown added. "Not doing our job. The hard stuff, the little stuff is what adds up. Offensive rebounds and loose balls, the turnovers -- we didn't deserve to win today.
" ... You're playing a team with only 15 wins, you think (a win is) just going to automatically happen. That’s not the NBA and it’s not basketball. And we didn’t have a sense of urgency, so we weren’t rewarded tonight. That’s what happens."
The Celtics could use a sense of urgency going forward. They're now just 3-5 in their last eight games, falling 2.5 games behind the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia 76ers just one game back in the No. 3 seed. Unless the Bucks hit a rut with 14 games remaining, the No. 1 seed seems all but out of reach for Boston.
The C's are at their best when they're making 3-point shots, but when the threes aren't falling, they still need to give better effort on both ends of the floor to avoid letdowns like Monday night. They'll have a chance to bounce back Wednesday in Minnesota against the Timberwolves.