Final: Rockets 119, Celtics 114: Kendrick Perkins gets whistled for an offensive foul away from the ball right off the inbound pass, and that pretty much decides it. The Celtics are forced to foul, Aaron Brooks gets to the line and he hits two huge free throws. The Rockets finish off a dramatic win over the Celtics at the Garden, making it three straight losses for the men in green, all at home.
Overtime, 14.3 seconds, Rockets 117-114: The Rockets get a huge stop, but Kyle Lowry is called for traveling on the other end. It’s a miracle — the Celtics get the ball back, and they’ve got one last chance to get back in this game. Double overtime? Could it happen?
Overtime, 51.8 seconds, Rockets 117-114: Scola hits one from wide open. Absolutely wide open. No excuse for that defensive lapse from the Celtics. It’s an 8-0 Houston run, and Doc needs yet another timeout. The Celtics are in trouble now.
Overtime, 1:21, Rockets 115-114: Luis Scola grabs his own rebound and puts it back, and the Rockets have their first lead of the overtime period. The Celtics have called a timeout, and it’s up to Doc Rivers to find a way to put the Celtics back in the driver’s seat. Between Doc and Rick Adelman, you’re looking at two coaches whose teams always run smart plays coming out of timeouts.
Overtime, 2:02, Celtics 114-113: Chase Budinger has done it again. What can you say? The scrawny blond rookie is now 6-for-8 from long range. He’s been absolutely huge in keeping the Rockets alive in this game. Who’d have guessed it?
Overtime, 3:11, Celtics 114-109: When you’ve got a competitor like Kevin Garnett on your side, you can expect him to step up when the game gets to overtime. Garnett gets a huge bucket to put the Celtics up three, and he helps the C’s get a stop and feed Rajon Rondo in transition for another bucket. Boston has opened a five-point lead in the extra session.
End of regulation, 109-109: Paul Pierce gets a good look from the top of the key with a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but it’s off the back of the rim and out. We’re headed to overtime at the TD Garden, as the Rockets have fought their hearts out to force an extra session with their season hanging in the balance. But can Houston’s seven-man rotation hold up as we go deeper and deeper into the night? It can’t be easy.
Fourth quarter, 9.0 seconds, 109-109: Incredible. Aaron Brooks hits another huge shot, and the Rockets have once again evened the score. Just an amazing effort from the Rockets down the stretch, hitting every single clutch shot and putting themselves in position to force overtime in this game. One question remains, though — can they get one more stop?
Fourth quarter, 27.1 seconds, Celtics 108-104: Tony Allen comes up with an absolutely huge steal, and he’s fouled in transition as he tries to take it coast to coast. He hits one of two, and it’s a two-possession basketball game with the shot clock nearly dead. The Celtics are in great shape now.
Fourth quarter, 45.0 seconds, Celtics 107-104: Clutch free-throw shooting wins games. Simple as that. KG hits two with just over a minute to play, putting the Celtics back in the lead, and Rajon Rondo knocks down another. It’s a three-point game again. The Celtics have some breathing room; now, what they need is another stop.
Fourth quarter, 1:15, 104-104: Kyle Lowry hits a big running jumper in the lane to tie the game. The Rockets have come all the way back.
Fourth quarter, 2:36, Celtics 104-101: Every time you think the Rockets are done, Chase Budinger steps up and hits a big 3. He’s now 5-of-6 from long range for the Rockets — he’s made more 3’s than the entire Celtics team. This game’s not over yet, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Fourth quarter, 3:49, Celtics 98-96: The Rockets are back to making a game out of this thing, which means the Celtics are back to their starting five. Ray Allen is back on the floor with five fouls, the first we’ve seen of him in a long while. Doc is clearly hoping that one last push from his starting unit is enough to finish this thing off. We shall see …
Fourth quarter, 5:26, Celtics 98-91: The Rockets just can’t buy a basket. It’s now been nearly four and a half minutes since Houston scored a point — they’ve had five straight misses in that time, and the Celtics are on an 11-0 run despite most of their starters being on the bench catching a breather. When the starting five does return to the floor, you can expect them to be ready to finish this thing off.
Fourth quarter, 7:08, Celtics 94-91: All of a sudden, it’s the Celtics’ game to lose. A couple of key steals from Rondo spur a 7-0 Boston run, and once again the crowd at the TD Garden comes to life. The Celtics are playing with renewed energy –they can feel this game shifting in their favor as fatigue starts to set in for the Rockets.
Fourth quarter, 8:45, Rockets 91-87: The Celtics are starting to force the Rockets into mistakes on the defensive end and pick up a couple of stops, but they’re not able to create smart shots back on their end of the floor. They’re going to need mistake-free basketball if they want to steal this game, and that means no ill-advised shots from Rasheed Wallace or Michael Finley. Something that Doc Rivers is no doubt telling his players as they huddle up during this official timeout.
End of third quarter, Rockets 87-83: Chase Budinger may be absolutely no match for Paul Pierce on the defensive end (hence the Celtics captain’s 27 points), but he knows how to knock down a big shot every now and then. Pierce and Rondo bring the Celtics back to within one yet again on their final possession, but Budinger hits a huge three to push Houston’s edge back to four. Every time the Celtics claw their way back, the Rockets have an answer. It’s up to Doc Rivers to get his team to wake up defensively in the fourth quarter.
Third quarter, 3:20, Rockets 78-77: With no Ray Allen and hardly anything out of KG either, the Celtics manage to hang around and keep this game interesting. Tony Allen has been on a tear — he now has eight points, four rebounds and three steals — and the C’s stay in it despite Aaron Brooks continuing to shoot the lights out. Brooks and Paul Pierce now have 23 points each for their respective teams. … How’s this for a prediction? Whichever star scores last wins this game.
Third quarter, 6:02, Rockets 70-69: The Celtics are going to be forced to play a lot of this second half without Ray Allen, who’s already in foul trouble as he picked up his fifth early in the second half. Allen has yet to foul out a single time this season. With him off the floor, we’re seeing a lot of Paul Pierce and Tony Allen as the Celtics’ one-two wing scoring punch. Really, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Third quarter, 9:06, 62-62: If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the Celtics were starting to play like they wanted this one. They’re intensifying the ball pressure on the defensive end, making sure not to give the Rockets any clean looks at the basket, and they’re starting to knock down some shots on the other end. It’s all coming together, but that’s with Pierce and Allen leading the charge coming out of the locker room. The real question will be whether the C’s can keep this up once the second unit takes the floor.
Halftime, Rockets 57-53: Aaron Brooks continues to shoot the lights out, and thus the Rockets continue to be alive and well in this basketball game. Seventeen points now on 7-of-11 shooting from Brooks, and he closes the half with a nice assist, kicking one out to Chase Budinger on the wing. He knocks it down with a swish, and the Rockets finish off a nice 9-2 run heading into the break. The C’s have some work to do to figure out Brooks and get the job done defensively in the second half.
Second quarter, 3:39, Celtics 51-48: We’re starting to see the Celtics come to life now. It’s a 12-2 Boston run here in the latter part of the second quarter, highlighted by a big transition layup from Pierce and a pair of electrifying dunks, one from Kendrick Perkins off a Rondo alley-oop and one from Tony Allen. The Celtics are rolling, and the Rockets need a timeout to slow this game down and figure things out. The momentum has swung, and you can feel it in the air.
Second quarter, 6:02, Rockets 46-41: Doc puts his starters back on the floor, and not a moment too soon. Now is it too much to ask that the Celtics get a stop or two? Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels have done a terrific job carrying the Celtics’ offense off the bench in the second quarter, but a couple of nice shots aren’t going to make the difference. The defense has to be there. Putting KG back on the floor after a long wait should help.
Second quarter, 9:19, Rockets 37-35: The second unit is starting to lag a little bit defensively, and that’s resulted in a lot of wide-open jumpers for the Rockets, most notably Aaron Brooks and sixth man Hilton Armstrong, from mid-range. The Celtics have to do a better job clamping down on the Rockets’ shooters — it’s something they’ve done brilliantly with KG and Pierce on the floor, but not so much once they’ve emptied the bench.
End of first quarter, Rockets 32-30: You’re starting to see Doc Rivers experiment a little bit, stepping away from the clearly structured “starting unit, second unit” rotation he’s had for the past month. He’s leaving his starters on the floor more, especially Rajon Rondo at the point, presumably in an effort to get them ready for the grind of postseason basketball. Rondo’s got the energy to be a consistent performer for 40 minutes a night, but you’ve got to worry about the older players like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Doc remains hesitant to give either of those two guys any prolonged stretches on the floor.
First quarter, 3:16, Celtics 27-19: It’s been a history-making kind of week for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo once again etches his name in the team record books, this time with the 716th assist of his season, breaking Bob Cousy’s team record of 715 set back in 1959-60. Now he’s got the assists record and the steals record, and for those keeping score at home, yes, he’s still only 24 years old. Not too shabby. Rondo enjoys a nice standing ovation from the TD Garden faithful.
First quarter, 6:23, Celtics 19-11: Yao Ming is out for the year. Tracy McGrady’s a Knick. Kevin Martin’s out tonight with a sprained shoulder. So that leaves Aaron Brooks as the only scorer left? Yeah, pretty much. Brooks’ sharp mid-range shooting is really the only thing keeping this game from becoming an absolute blowout early on — the Rockets’ guard is trying to make this into a fast-paced offensive contest, and right now the Celtics are beating Houston at their own game.
First quarter, 9:20, Celtics 9-3: Both teams are trying to be aggressive, pushing the ball into the paint and creating scoring opportunities inside. Only one’s been successful. The Celtics’ defense has been stifling the Rockets with ease in the opening minutes, forcing bad shots and turnovers, and turning takeaways into transition buckets to boot. This game’s looking just like the meeting from two weeks ago — the Celtics have seized control on both ends of the floor.
8 a.m.: The Celtics are coming off of back-to-back losses on their home floor at the TD Garden, but they’re about to play host to a team with much bigger problems.
The Houston Rockets, who began this season with an up-and-coming team that showed great promise, are now one loss away from elimination in the race for a Western Conference playoff spot. In a season marred by injuries, chemistry issues and more than a few personnel changes, the Rockets are now on the verge of being done.
If the Celtics can get a win at the Garden on Friday night, they’ll be making up for a pair of tough losses at home to San Antonio and Oklahoma City. But they’ll also be sending the Rockets home crying.
Both teams have a lot to play for — for the Celtics, it’s playoff seeding in a competitive Eastern Conference, and for the Rockets, it’s the chance to fight another day.