It wasn’t the most ideal start, but the Celtics responded to play a dominant three quarters in their 134-107 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday.
Jaylen Brown led Boston with a team-high 24 points on 9-for-14 from the field while Jayson Tatum complemented the effort with 23 points of his own on 9-for-17 from the floor.
But perhaps the biggest difference was the C’s bench, which received a first-quarter spark from Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye and Robert Williams. The trio was crucial in changing the flow of the game and helped Boston’s bench out-score that of the Rockets 25-6 in the first half.
Williams finished with a double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds). Ojeleye shot 50% from long range en route to nine points while Smart scored five points with three assists in 19 minutes. Kemba Walker scored 16 points on 11 shots, as well.
The Celtics improved to 20-18 on the season while the Rockets fell to 11-25.
Here’s how it went down:
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Tristan Thompson
C: Daniel Theis
The C’s came out slow, playing down to a worse team as they have many times this season. But Boston closed the quarter on a run to take a 38-34 lead after the first.
Houston had taken a 28-20 lead with 4:45 left in the quarter before Boston went on a 16-4 run over the next four minutes to answer and take momentum into the second.
Tatum led the way for Boston, scoring 12 first-quarter points.
Boston really turned it around with Smart, Ojeleye and Williams coming off the bench.
Ojeleye scored six points on two 3-pointers while Williams hit each of his three shots from the field, and Smart chipped in five. All made contributions during Boston’s run, too.
Boston shot 62% (13-for-21) in the quarter while making five of their eight 3-point attempts. Houston shot 52% (12-for-23).
Kevin Porter Jr. led the Rockets with 11 points.
A BETTER SECOND
The Celtics scored the first six points of the second quarter and put on a noteworthy run at the onset of the period to earn a 66-53 lead heading into the half.
Boston used a 16-2 scoring stretch to take an 18-point lead midway through the period. The C’s built that advantage to as much as 19 before Houston ended the quarter on a run of its own.
Brown took over in the second quarter, scoring 16 of his 21 first-half points during the period.
Boston’s bench out-scored the Rockets 25-6 in the first half with Ojeleye (nine) and Williams (eight points on 4-for-4 shooting) leading the way. Tatum, however, entered the half with the 12 points he scored in the first.
Boston finished the half shooting 52% (25-for-48) and 8-for-19 from long range. The C’s assisted on 13 of those 25 made baskets.
Houston shot 38% (18-for-47) in the first half while Victor Oladipo led the way with 17 first-half points.
The Celtics continued to put themselves in complete control during the third quarter, extending the lead to 104-72 ahead of the final frame.
Tatum scored 11 points in the quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to bring his total to 23. Brown scored three points in the period to bring his total up to 24.
Walker scored 11 third-quarter points, and looked superb on both ends of the court.
Williams was equally impactful on both ends and went into the fourth with a double-double.
NEVER IN DOUBT
The C’s emptied the bench with nine minutes left in the game and still kept their foot on the gas.
Payton Pritchard scored nine points in the final 12 minutes while Carsen Edwards chipped in six.
And here’s a Tacko Fall highlight:
Some end-of-game stats: Boston shot 55% (51-for-92) from the floor and 49% from long range (18-for-37). The Celtics assisted on 29 of those 51 baskets made.
Houston shot a brutal 39% (35-for-91) from the field and 32% from 3-point range.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Tatum was doing it all.
The Celtics will return to TD Garden on Tuesday to host the Utah Jazz. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET.