Marcus Smart explains why Celtics were in a foul mood following loss to Rockets

Marcus Smart explains why Celtics were in a foul mood following loss to Rockets

HOUSTON -- There was no mistaking the anger Marcus Smart felt following the Boston Celtics' 116-105 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. 

It wasn’t so much that Boston’s seven-game winning streak had come to an end or the fact that the Celtics (37-16) were handed their first road loss in their past four games away from TD Garden.

Smart, along with a few of his teammates, was in a foul mood in part because of the lopsided nature of the fouls that were called.

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While the number of total fouls called was close (26 against Boston, 21 against Houston), the difference in free-throw attempts was much, much greater.  

Houston’s James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who consistently rank among the NBA’s leaders in free-throw attempts, combined to attempt 31 against Boston. 

The Celtics team took a total of 25. 

While there were certainly some calls that went against Boston that could have easily been in the Celtics' favor, the real difference in this game was the level of physicality the Rockets (34-20) brought to the game that the C's simply did not match. 

Smart acknowledged this was, in fact, one of the few games this season that the Celtics failed to elevate or exceed their opponent's level of physical play.

“It’s just hard for us, the way the game is being called,” Smart said. “We didn’t know how physical we could be. When we were being physical, we were getting [fouls called]. So, it kind of made us hesitant, put us on our heels. Anytime you’re fearful of fouling, this is what happens.

Smart added, “But we’ll get better at it. They did a good job of being physical and really owning that game and taking it to us.”

It was pointed out to Smart that the free-throw discrepancy was 17 in favor of the Rockets.

“I don’t think I need to say anything on that,” Smart said. “It’s a big discrepancy.”

But that isn’t all that unusual for Rockets' opponents this season. 

With Harden leading the way, Houston has ranked among the NBA’s top teams when it comes to free-throw attempts. 

The addition of Westbrook has allowed the Rockets’ free-throw attempt numbers to be even better.

Houston came into the game averaging a league-best 26.2 free throws attempted per game while opponents average 22.8 attempts, which ranks 16th in the league. 

And while the free throws and physicality were certainly major contributors in Boston’s loss, the bottom line when all was said and done was clear. 

Houston, on this night, was the better team. 

“You know, they outplayed us,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “They were really good, made a bunch of tough shots, they’re two best players were awesome. 

Stevens added, “I thought our guys battled. We just need to be better.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Clippers-Celtics, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Who are the best point guards in Celtics history? Ranking the Top 10

Who are the best point guards in Celtics history? Ranking the Top 10

It's no surprise that the Boston Celtics, the team that has won more championships than any other — 17 — also has an incredible list of point guards that have taken the floor over the franchise's storied history.

Their most famous floor general, Bob Cousy, helped the Celtics to their first six titles, but some of the best point guards in team history have taken the floor more recently.

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Much more recently, in fact. Brad Stevens has only been Boston's head coach since 2013, but he has coached four different All-Star point guards in that time.

Some of the team's best point guards have even gone on to success in the Celtics front office and on the sidelines. 

So from Cooz to Kemba, DJ to Jo Jo, these are the best point guards in Celtics history.

Click here for Chris Forsberg's Top 10.

Why isn't Gordon Hayward participating in players' NBA 2K tournament?

Why isn't Gordon Hayward participating in players' NBA 2K tournament?

When a report surfaced Monday night that the NBA is launching an NBA 2K tournament pitting players against each other, Boston Celtics fans all had the same thought:

Gordon Hayward isn't just going to participate in this. He's going to dominate it.

The Celtics forward, after all, is probably the NBA's most avid video gamer, with his own sponsor (HyperX Gaming) and numerous blog posts about his love for gaming.

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But when ESPN's "The Boardroom" revealed the 16 players who will compete in the tournament Tuesday, Hayward was nowhere to be found.

What gives? Does No. 1 overall seed Kevin Durant have a vendetta against Hayward? Is Hayward too good to concern himself with these casual gamers?

In all likelihood, there's a simpler answer: Hayward doesn't really play 2K -- or any sports video game, for that matter.

Here's Hayward in a 2011 interview with ESPN:

"The one thing I've never been into are the sports games. I don't know, I just don't like playing those as much. I bought 'NBA 2K11' just to see myself. It was creepily similar and it's cool to say that you're in a video game, but I'm just not into it that much. I'm more into first-person shooters and real-time strategy games."

That's still the case today, apparently. Hayward lists seven "favorite games" on his HyperX Gaming page, and only one of them (FIFA) is sports-related: Fortnite, League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, FIFA, Destiny and Clash Royale.

In that context, it's obvious why Hayward wasn't one of the 16 competitors selected, especially considering how many other players are obsessed with 2K.

That said, we would have liked to see at least one Celtic make the cut here; after all, Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum both starred in a trailer for NBA 2K20 last August.

The tournament kicks off this Friday on ESPN, giving sports fans at least something to watch (aside from "Classic Celtics," of course) while the NBA is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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