Published: Mon, March 05, 2018
Sports | By Phillip Butler

Rockets 123, Celtics 120: Late run lifts Houston over Boston

Rockets 123, Celtics 120: Late run lifts Houston over Boston

Houston has one of the league's best offense, and Boston boasts the NBA's stingiest defense.

The Celtics led by three entering the fourth and were up by the same margin early in the quarter before Houston used a 6-2 run to take a 96-95 lead with about 9 1/2 minutes left. However, their teammates were more than happy to pick up the slack.

"Defense (is) what it boiled down to", Gordon said.

The Rockets would go on a 16-7 run during the final four minutes of the game, to pull out a 123-120 win over the Celtics after Marcus Smart missed a tough fall-away game-tying basket. But defense was the deciding factor in this one.

Houston trailed by six before using a 10-2 run, with the last five points coming from Trevor Ariza, to take a 117-115 lead with 1:16 remaining. Unfortunately for the Boston player though, the ball hit the rim of the basket as the buzzer sounded, confirming that Houston's winning streak would continue.

Al Horford missed a three-pointer on Boston's next possession. But then a bad pass stolen by Ariza gave Houston the ball and made things start to look a little bleak for the Celtics.

Houston, which features a plethora of offensive scorers, enters Saturday's game ranked second in points per game (113.8) and first in 3-pointers (944), nailing just over 40 percent per game.

Since returning from the All-Star break, the Celtics had won four straight, while beating opponents by an average of 15 points before Saturday night's loss to the Rockets. "Tonight definitely proved to us that we can win in that style of basketball, a grind-it-out type of game". James Harden, 31.3 points per game, 8.9 assists per game, and 5.2 rebounds per game, is likely the frontrunner for NBA MVP at this point, and point guard Chris Paul, 18.8 points per game, 8.2 assists per game, and 5.7 rebounds per game, is playing exceptional.

Harden, the NBA's leading scorer, comes into Saturday's game averaging 31 points per game and almost nine assists per game.

"I just thought they maximized more possessions than we did", Boston coach Brad Stevens said after the game (ESPN).

And speaking of three-pointers, they were certainly expected to come at a huge clip between these two teams, and they sure did. The win is the fourth straight for the Celtics and keeps them a half-game behind the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Paul Millsap hit a lead-saving 3-pointer with 2:26 remaining, sending Denver to a victory over host Cleveland. They will try to get back on the right side of the scoreboard when they take on the Bulls in Chicago Monday night.

Eric Gordon scored 29 points off the bench, James Harden had 26 points and 10 assists, and the Rockets outlasted the Boston Celtics 123-120 on Saturday night to extend their winning streak to a season-high 15 games.

PORTLAND, Ore. - CJ McCollum scored 28 points, Damian Lillard had 20 and Portland won its sixth straight game with a victory over Oklahoma City.

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