Ever heard the old phrase, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”?
It’s pretty cliché, but that’s more or less what unfolded at Toyota Center on Monday night.
The Houston Rockets put up an absolute clunker against the Boston Celtics, getting outscored by 20 points over the final three quarters to fall to their fourth consecutive loss. They committed 22 turnovers, while star players James Harden and Dwight Howard — who have 11 All-Star appearances between them — combined to score just 21 total points.
At 4-7, Houston has plenty of its own problems. But credit must be given to their opponent. For the second time in as many nights, the Celtics relied on a relentless defensive effort to defeat a much more talented team. Boston also consistently outhustled the disinterested Rockets, opening up a commanding lead thanks to plays like this:
“We’re showing that we’re going to come and fight each and every night,” Jae Crowder, who leads the NBA in steals, told reporters after the game, via the team’s official Twitter account.
“… I think we play hard, and guys don’t like that in this league,” he added, via The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach.
Russell Westbrook can attest to that, as the Oklahoma City Thunder guard felt the need to remind everyone he’s still a better player after Marcus Smart outdueled him Sunday night.
Yet Boston has proven over its last three contests — wins over the Atlanta Hawks, Thunder and Rockets — that it can win games even if it doesn’t have elite talent. Case in point: Smart scored just five points on 1-for-11 shooting Monday after his big game Sunday, but players like Avery Bradley, with a season-high 21 points on 8 of 14 shooting, picked up the slack.
The Celtics’ lack of star power certainly will come back to bite them at times, as it did when Paul George put the Indiana Pacers on his back against the C’s last week. But if Bradley and Co. continue to bring the tenacity they showed Monday, they’ll be very hard to handle.
“We?re just a young hungry team,” Bradley told reporters, via the Globe. “We have a lot of people out here trying to prove themselves … and we have each other?s back(s).”
Thumbnail photo via Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports Images