The opening frame was very fast-paced as expected, with Boston starting the game with a strong offensive showing by the fresh starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, Jonas Jerebko, and Al Horford. Isaiah, Jerebko, and Horford initially carried the load, netting Boston's first 16 points.
For Houston, James Harden orchestrated an effective symphony on offense with nine points and four nifty assists. The current MVP favorite set the pace for the quarter, finding streaking teammates before the Celtics could even set up their defense -- many of these involved Clint Capela beating Boston bigs down the court and finishing at the hoop:
Capela completely outruns Horford down the floor and is able to maintain control even though he gets the basketball at the 3pt arc. Crazy. pic.twitter.com/xwaBICmMxB— Justin Jett (@JustinJett_) January 26, 2017
Good to see that Harden ➡️ Capela connection. pic.twitter.com/ZS7FRxAGKI— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 26, 2017
The C's finished the first quarter down three:
The Celtics trail Houston, 27-24, after 1Q. Jonas Jerebko is off to a hot start with 7 pts and 3 rebs. Isaiah Thomas leads the C's w/ 9 pts.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 26, 2017
The Rocket's bench torched the Celtics in the second. Sam Dekker hit five shots for 11 points in just nine minutes of play, while Corey Brewer and Montrezl Harrell combined for another 10. They also got a little help with some controversial refereeing -- three technical fouls were handed out to the Celtics, on top of all of the common fouls called on them.
Rough one for #Celtics , refs. 2 fouls on Jerebko, 2 HOU offensive boards, a lane violation and techs on Jerebko, Stevens on one possession.— Scott Souza (@Scott_Souza) January 26, 2017
On the other end, Isaiah wouldn't be denied anything. He got to the rim at will, using his typical maneuvering to get around defenders and finish with a soft touch. Still, Boston couldn't take advantage of the best three-point shooting team in the league missing 13 of their 16 attempts from behind the arc. Much of this was due to Houston spending an incredible amount of time at the charity stripe -- they took 26 free-throws in 24 minutes of play, compared to the Celts' eight.
This Horford buzzer-beating three trimmed the Beard's lead to eight at the half:
Horford to end the first half! pic.twitter.com/5uB0N697so— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 26, 2017
A Smart three, Isaiah three, two Crowder free-throws, Crowder layup, Horford jump hook, and this Horford jam capped off an unbelievable 14-3 run in the opening three minutes of the second half for Boston:
Al Horford rises up for the rim-rocking slam! pic.twitter.com/fBWTTNFeRc— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 26, 2017
The spirited start to the third quarter was powered by a rejuvenated defensive presence, as the C's collected a few blocks and steals and got out on the break. After missing a lot of his early shots, Crowder caught fire and finished the third with 18 points on the game.
While Harden's shooting woes continued (1/5 in the 3Q), he was still dropping more dimes than a blind cashier. Many of those assists were to Trevor Ariza, who had the hot hand with four three-pointers in the quarter. This kept Houston within two in what was a nice offensive display by the Celtics:
The C's erupt for a 36-point 3rd quarter and take an 88-86 lead into the final frame. Thomas has 25 points. Crowder has 18 pts and 9 rebs.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 26, 2017
Another fourth quarter, another dominant stretch of play by Isaiah. He shook off two misses by hitting back-to-back shots and four of his next five, giving Boston a five point advantage. This sparked a clutch 11-0 Celtic run, in which they never looked back. Isaiah's supporting cast were hitting big shots as well -- Terry Rozier, Crowder, and Horford all had their clutch moments coming down the stretch.
What really set the Celtics apart was their defense and passion. They were determined to get the win and it showed, making plays such as this one:
Al Horford dives for the loose ball and dishes it to Crowder for the transition bucket 💪 pic.twitter.com/Rf3ExwLd9n— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 26, 2017
Isaiah finished with 38/5/9, Crowder with 23/10/4, and Horford with 20/3/9. Even though he struggled from the field all night, Harden finished with 30/12/6 (only six field goals, but 16 free-throws).
Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Photo by @celtics Erik Johnson 1/25/2017 10:12:00 PM Tweet Edit