End of game, Celtics win 97-92: Ray Allen wasn't about to be the fourth goat of the game for the Celtics. Tough defense by the Celtics forced a turnover, and Rondo tossed the ball ahead to Allen, who was fouled. Allen did his best impression of himself by draining both shots, and the Rockets never got off a decent look.
Paul Pierce scored a game-high 30 points and Allen carried the Celtics in the fourth quarter and overtime to finish with 21 points. Their outputs were necessary to overcome the dominating inside presence of Luis Scola, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Sam Dalembert, who had 11 points and 17 rebounds.
Overtime, :30.3, Celtics 95-92: Now add Pierce's name to the list of Celtics players ruining a chance to put this game away. After a defensive stop, Pierce ran into pressure defense in the backcourt and was called for an eight-second violation.
If the Celtics want to win this game, they didn't play like it on some key plays down the stretch of the fourth quarter and overtime.
Overtime, :46.5, Celtics 95-92: Garnett was the next Celtic to waste a chance to ice the game, muffing two free throws after drawing the sixth foul on Dalembert.
Dalembert left with a game-high 17 rebounds, but Lowry, who was also in on the play, stayed on the floor with five fouls. That was good news for the Rockets, who got their last six points from Lowry.
Overtime, 3:01, Celtics 91-86: Allen got a little heated up in the fourth quarter, and he maintained that aggression into the overtime. Allen scored a reverse layup to open the scoring in the extra session, and after a Garnett jumper and Pierce jumper gave the C's a four-point lead, Allen stole the ball from Dragic and drew a foul.
End of regulation, 84-84: For some reason, the Rockets switched the screen on the inbounds and Scola ended up covering Allen. Allen dribbled around Scola with ease and had an ideal look at a free throw line jumper as time expired, but his shot bounced off the back rim.
For the second straight game, the C's are headed to bonus basketball.
Fourth quarter, :03, game tied 84-84: With a chance to ice the game, Rondo never caught iron on an uncontested layup.
The Celtics forced a defensive stop and Pierce made a heady outlet pass to Rondo streaking up court. Rondo's layup attempt skimmed off the backboard, and Dragic, who knocked down a number of huge shots in this game, landed another blow with a jumper from the right baseline to tie it up.
Fourth quarter, :35.4, Celtics 84-82: Allen nailed a 3 from the corner on a kickout by Bass. And the crowd goes wild.
Fourth quarter, :55.9, Rockets 82-81: The veterans took over for the Celtics, as Pierce and Garnett combined to swish four straight free throws and put the Celtics in prime position with less than a minute remaining.
It appeared the Celtics would again get it to three points and no closer, but then Pierce went to the basket and drew a fourth personal foul on Lowry. Dalembert then made a foolish loose-ball foul on Garnett to grant the Big Ticket two points with no time running off the clock.
Fourth quarter, 2:49, Rockets 80-77: After recording his 10th assist at the nine-minute mark of the third quarter, Rondo went more than 17 minutes without notching a point, assist or rebound. When he finally cracked the stat sheet again, though, his timing was impeccable.
Pierce cut the Celtics' deficit to nine points at 80-71 by splitting a pair of free throws and Allen hit a foul line jumper to cut it to 80-73. After the C's forced two 24-second violations, Rondo found Bass for a medium range jumper and then saw Allen ahead of the pack for a bank shot on the break.
The Celtics looked intent on continuing their win streak.
Fourth quarter, 5:50, Rockets 78-70: Pierce was none too happy with the officiating. He had yet to pick up a technical like Garnett — who picked up a technical for oddly yelling at the official for granting him two free throws on a foul by Dalembert — but Pierce's protests grew louder after each miss. No. 34 seemed to feel he deserved more than the four free throw attempts he had received thus far.
Fourth quarter, 8:30, Rockets 76-67: Goran Dragic has been one of the best backup point guards in the league for years. If anyone in the TD Garden crowd is unfamiliar with him, the 6-foot-4 guard from Slovenia gave them a glimpse.
Bradley, with his newfound midrange jumper, drilled a baseline shot to cut the Celtics' deficit to four points. But Dragic responded with a steal of a bad pass by Mickael Pietrus and an open-floor dunk, followed by a 3-pointer after drawing a mismatch with Garnett. Just like that, the Rockets' lead was back up to nine points.
End of third quarter, Rockets 68-63: Rondo gives you the feeling there's a Good Rondo and a Bad Rondo. Bad Rondo showed up after Good Rondo got to 10 assists in the game three minutes into the second half.
Rondo went the next nine minutes and counting without a point, assist or a rebound while comitting two turnovers.
As a result, the Rockets took the lead and took control. After a 3 by Allen gave the C's a 60-51 lead, the Rockets outscored the Celtics 17-3 the rest of the quarter.
These final 12 minutes are the difference between going into Philadelphia on Wednesday tied with the first-place Sixers in the loss column, with a chance to take control of the Atlantic Division and settling back into the No. 7 seed for the foreseeable future.
Third quarter, 6:20, Celtics 57-50: They still can't rebound, but by putting up a greater volume of shots and continuing to limit turnovers, the Celtics settled into a groove in the third quarter.
The Celtics had put up six more shots than the Rockets as the third quarter reached its midway point, and they were higher percentage shots at that. The Celtics had shot 49 percent on 51 attempts from the field compared to the Rockets' 38-percent shooting on 45 attempts.
The Celtics continued to limit turnovers, committing only half of the Rockets' 12 turnovers.
Third quarter, 9:00, Celtics 55-45: It took all of three minutes for Rondo to pick up the four assists he needed to break into double figures in that category. A nice steal by Bass, who tossed to Rondo, who quickly handed it back to Bass for a left-handed dunk, gave Rondo lucky assist No. 8.
The Rockets scored just one field goal in the first three minutes of the third quarter. It came on a running layup by 6-foot-11 Sam Dalembert, who is known for that sort of move. (He's really not.)
Halftime, Celtics 46-40: A remarkably even approach by the Celtics allowed them to take over the lead at halftime, with a different player leading the way in scoring, rebounding and assists in the first half.
Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass expertly executed a pick-and-roll on the final possession of the second quarter, with Bass draining an 18-footer with :00.8 on the clock.
The Celtics held the Rockets to 12 points in the second quarter and 15-for-37 shooting in the first half.
The Good: Rondo could be on one of those multiple-game runs where he convinces many fans and experts that he's one of the best point guards in the league. The C's point guard had nine points and six assists in the first half, well on his way to a double-double. He'd need seven more rebounds or seven more steals to notch his fifth triple-double of the season, but it's tough to put anything past him. … Luis Scola victimized Chris Wilcox and Greg Stiemsma, scoring 12 points on nifty post moves that earned him eight free throw attempts. He also nabbed eight rebounds. … It's fairly easy to predict Paul Pierce's performance. A young, athletic small forward is going to give him trouble, especially when that player moves a lot without the ball and can leap. Chandler Parsons, a 6-foot-8 stringbean out of Florida, is that type of player. His 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting was therefore not surprising.
The Bad: Ray Allen adjusted with his outside shot not falling. He handed out three assists and tried to get to the rim, but at 1-for-5 from 3-point territory, Allen could be raring to heat up for another one of his streaky third quarters. … Kyle Lowry is the latest unfortunate point guard to run into Rondo when he's angry. Lowry, a candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player award, was just 1-for-6 shooting in the first half. He was held to three points and four assists with three turnovers.
The So-so: Pierce hit half of the 10 shots he put up, but those numbers weren't completely indicative of how he played. Pierce wasn't able to get to the foul line and he struggled to keep up with Parsons on the defensive end. … Stiemsma hit four of the six shots he attempted for eight first-half points. He tracked down only one rebound, though, and it would be nice if he could stop Scola at least once.
Second quarter, 2:54, Celtics 40-35: Somebody who works for the Celtics should insult Rondo or float his name in a trade rumor every game. He plays like a demon when motivated.
Rondo delivered a pass that was only possible if he has eyes in the back of his head to find Allen in the corner for a 3. The basket completed a 9-2 Boston run.
Pierce had gotten caught off his feet on a drive, and luckily found a cutting Rondo, who tossed a behind-his-head pass to Allen for the triple. Rondo was up to nine points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals with only one turnover.
Second quarter, 5:15, Rockets 33-31: The Celtics must be inspirational for people suffering from mid-life crises. With Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Pierce, the Celtics can be pretty effective even when moving in slow-motion.
Allen made a drive straight out of the slow-mo replay to cut the Rockets' lead to a point at 30-29, enabling the C's to briefly take the lead on a Pierce jumper at 31-30. A Lowry 3-pointer seized back the lead for Houston, but he's a young guy. That's what he's supposed to do when playing against a bunch of senior citizens.
Second quarter, 8:55, Rockets 28-25: Stiemsma suffered from being out of position a few times on defense, but on offense he came to play.
Stiemsma showed no fear in taking the shot as soon as he touched the ball, attempting five field goals in the first nine minutes he spent on the floor. He knocked down three of those attempts, pulling into the middle portion of the second quarter as the Celtics' second-leading scorer with six points.
End of first quarter, Rockets 28-21: Don't let the 10-for-25 shooting brickfest fool you. Poor shooting had little to do with the Celtics' deficit heading into the second quarter. More to blame is their 14-7 disadvantage on the boards, which is an indication of how badly they were outworked by the Rockets.
The Celtics had just one turnover to the Rockets' five, but apart from Rondo, nobody on the Celtics seemed to be in the flow. Stiemsma, forced to play earlier than usual due to foul trouble on Chris Wilcox, picked up two fouls in less than seven minutes of playing time.
Rondo hit four of his first seven shots for nine points while playing all 12 minutes of the first quarter as the triple-double watch is on.
First quarter, 1:58, Rockets 24-19: Never fails. After I told you these teams attempt barely any free throws per game, they combined for 10 foul shots in the first 10 minutes.
Rondo kept up his strong play, but Chandler Parsons and Luis Scola had their ways with Paul Pierce and Greg Stiemsma. Parsons and Scolar combined for 17 points in the early going, with Scola adding six rebounds.
First quarter, 5:25, Celtics 13-12: Strap in, because Rajon Rondo looked to be in triple-double form again in the early going.
The Celtics point guard gave the Celtics their first lead of the game at 5-4 on a free throw, of all things, and later found a wide-open Greg Stiemsma fresh off the bench for a go-ahead jumper. With two quality point guards running the show, this game could go back-and-forth in that fashion the entire way.
7:15 p.m.: Ready for some crazy news? There are no last-minute injuries to report. Crazy, right?
This game promises to be a sports writer's (and a fan's) dream: The Celtics and Rockets create fewer stoppages in play than just about any two other teams in the league, which should be a fast game with a nice flow.
How do they do this? They don't get to the free throw line. The Rockets are second-to-last in the league with only 19.5 free throws attempted per game, just below the Celtics, who average only 20.1 free throws per game.
In other words, grab your refreshments and take your bathroom break early, because this one (should) move along quickly.
The projected starting lineups are below.
8 a.m. ET: Things have changed swiftly for the Celtics. Less than a week ago, we were pondering whether it was time to trade, well, everybody and start rebuilding for the future. After a four-game win streak, the Celtics are in striking distance of the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Normally, an interdivision matchup against a team without any superstars wouldn't be cause for much attention. Tuesday's game against the Rockets carries more weight than just a single game, though. The Celtics have moved within a game in the loss column behind the Sixers, and catching Philadelphia would vault the Celtics from the seventh seed to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is set to tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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