BOSTON — The second half of Friday night’s game at TD Garden featured some of the best defense the Celtics have played all season. Unfortunately for them, the first half featured some of the worst.
After allowing 60 first-half points to the Houston Rockets (and trailing by 18 at half as a result), the Celtics switched into full lock-down mode. They surrendered just 33 points over the final 24 minutes, including a stunning nine in the third quarter, to turn what looked like a sure blowout into a highly competitive finish.
“The second half might have been as good of a half of defense as we?ve played all year,” head coach Brad Stevens said after the game, which the Celtics ultimately lost 93-87. “To hold that team to 33 points is good, and six or eight of those were on free throws at the end. You felt like you were guarding and making it difficult.?
Unsurprisingly, Rockets coach Kevin McHale’s review of those final two quarters wasn’t nearly as glowing.
?We couldn?t move,” McHale said. “Actually, it (started with) about three minutes to go in the second quarter. We couldn?t move the ball, we couldn?t move our bodies. We played hideous offensive basketball for 27 minutes.”
— Playing a major role in Boston’s second-half rally was reserve guard Marcus Thornton, who buried four of his six 3-point attempts, tying him for the team lead with 17 points, while also grabbing a season-high seven rebounds.
“He?s a guy that can score the ball,” Stevens said. “I think that that?s what he can do. And he got us going in that regard. He also made some good physical defensive plays. He?s been pretty reliable in his role, scoring the ball. He struggled a little bit coming back from the injury, but in each of the last three or four games, maybe since Utah, he?s really played well.”
Thornton did not take much satisfaction from the comeback, though, which ended like so many others have for the Celtics this season.
“It?s easy to play when your down 20,” he said, echoing a phrase his coach has uttered on several occasions. “… I hate being down 20.”
— Friday was Tayshaun Prince’s first home game as a Celtic, and as a Los Angeles native, he said he’s gotten plenty of grief from his family of Lakers fans.
“I got a whole lot of texts when we were playing on the road, they said I didn’t look good in green,” the veteran forward said. “But then (Friday), they said the white and green looked better (than) the green and white. But that’s just coming from my family, who’s all in L.A. and are big-time Laker fans.”
— Dwight Howard did not make the trip for the Rockets as he deals with a right knee injury. McHale said he expects the center to be out “for a while, I’m sure.”
— A certain former New England Patriots quarterback was in attendance.
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Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images