(Boston) The Houston Rockets (17-21) were missing players but not shots against the defensively challenged Boston Celtics (28-9) last night.
The visitors prevailed 108-102 minus their top scorer (Kevin Martin) as well as main inside presence (Brad Miller). They were also carrying a five-game losing streak.
Anyone familiar with Houston’s annual visit to Boston during the previous two seasons would have been leery of this game for two reasons; (1) Houston had won the two previous years and (2) the Rockets were again missing key players. Two years ago it was Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest. Last year it was Kevin Martin and Shane Battier.
The missing players were a non-sensible coincidence. Houston won because Aaron Brooks (24 points including 11 in the final quarter) was available after missing several games. Aaron set the shooting tone that the C’s couldn’t stop or match.
The C’s shot 50.7%, which will win on most nights, but in this game the Rockets shot 52.7% including a dazzling 66% in the last quarter. Houston made ten of their first twelve shots in that final quarter and tipped in the two they missed.
The Rockets frequently had two 6-footers (Aaron Brooks & Kyle Lowry) on the floor together and together they were tough matchups for Boston defensively. On the other end, the C’s exploited the height advantages but not enough to match Houston’s persistent offense.
The Celtics lead the NBA in assists and Houston is second. So there were plenty of good shots available on both sides.
Celtic coach Doc Rivers put the blame for the loss on the poor defense of his starters. Unfortunately, one of those starters wasn’t Kevin Garnett. He was supposed to play and was definitely missed on defense.
The worst boxscore stat, in my opinion, were the incredible 23 second-chance points Houston turned up. Somewhere there’s a stathead who could identify the defenders who gave up the offensive rebounds.
After each of the Celtic losses, Doc refers back to Game Seven of the NBA finals with the Lakers when the C’s regular season record put them on the road. Having the best NBA record becomes important in the finals. Doc wants it to become important now. Last night’s loss ties Boston with Miami in the loss column. The Heat have two more wins. Meanwhile in the West, San Antonio has only six losses. Lakers? They have eleven losses.