Sure, the Houston Rockets aren’t great this year. But they were just the opponent the Boston Celtics needed to build some positive momentum to hopefully carry them through the season.
And it all started and ended with Robert Williams, who recorded a career-high 20 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and a steal. And when things looked dim for Boston, the third-year center got it going on both sides of the ball, helping secure a 118-102 win.
The Celtics had 35 team assists and made the extra pass over and over again. Defense created offense. And Boston actually won by a good margin thanks to a massive 20-point fourth from Evan Fournier.
The new Celtics wing had 23 points off the bench, behind only Jayson Tatum’s 26 points and nine rebounds. Jaylen Brown had a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds with two assists before leaving the game. Kemba Walker had a productive 11 points, eight assists and six boards, and though Marcus Smart just had six points, he orchestrated both sides of the ball with 10 assists, three steals and a block.
Boston improved to 24-25 with the win.
Here’s how it all went down:
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Jaylen Brown
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
C: Robert Williams
FOULS AN EARLY ISSUE
The Celtics offense and ball movement were strong from the start, with 10 first-quarter assists from the collective.
And it began instantly, with Williams bringing the energy to notch the first points of the game off a lob from Smart.
Tatum led the first quarter in scoring nine points early, with a balanced effort across the starting lineup, and Fournier pulled up with no hesitation, showing off exactly what Boston brought him in for.
But with everything going well on offense, things were a little tougher on the other side of the ball, with the Celtics struggling to defend without fouling. They’d accumulated seven (!!) personal fouls in the opening frame alone.
Still, Boston led Houston 33-25 at the first break.
BENDING, NOT BREAKING
The start of the second rang a familiar tune, with the team frigid from beyond the arc for some time. Christian Wood led the Rockets in breathing down the Celtics’ neck, briefly taking a one-point lead with 3:37 before halftime.
For most of the quarter, Williams’ effort on defense was the only silver lining. But finally, that started to rub off on the rest of his teammates and the Celtics started to look like the Celtics again.
By that, we mean that the defense starting creating offense, something we haven’t seen much of from Boston this year.
Boston proceeded to go off on a 9-0 run to close out the quarter, with 13 points from Tatum by the break. Talk about entering halftime with all the momentum:
Boston led Houston 52-44 after two quarters.
KEEP THAT SAME ENERGY
There was no third-quarter collapse. Quite the opposite, actually, as Boston enjoyed as much as a 15-point lead.
The balanced offense and ball movement in transition was something the late-Tommy Heinsohn would dream about, barely even needing to dribble on some plays.
Brown caught up to Tatum’s scoring in the third, finishing the quarter with 22 points following up his co-star’s 26. And he put Kenyon Martin Jr. on a poster.
Boston led 82-70 entering the half.
WELCOME TO BOSTON, FOURNIER
Entering the fourth quarter, Fournier had three points from a first-frame 3-pointer. By the end of it, he had 23 points, surpassing all of his teammates in scoring save for Tatum.
As they buried the Rockets, they unfortunately lost Brown for the remainder of the game with a left knee contusion.
The Celtics closed it out, though. With an exclamation point.
PLAY OF THE GAME
It’s the stare down for us….
The Celtics get back to work Sunday, again at TD Garden, as they welcome familliar faces Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier back to TD Garden.
Boston faces the Charlotte Hornets at 6 p.m. ET.