A wise man once said that the first home game for a team following a long road trip is much more difficult to play than any road game. This was all too apparent last night, as the Celtics fell to the Rockets 93-87 in a return to Boston following a six game road trip.
The Celtics looked sluggish from the get go, allowing Donatas Motiejunas to dominate in the paint–falling behind by 18 points at the half. Motiejunas scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, leading Houston to its fourth straight win. Motiejunas also had 12 rebounds as the Rockets improved to 17-7 on the road.
On a positive note, Avery Bradley turned in a solid defensive effort; limiting Rockets star James Harden (the NBA’s leading scorer) to 14 points on 4-for-21 shooting. The Celtics defense overall looked great in the second half. Brad Stevens called it “as good of a half of defense as we’ve played all year”.
The Celtics got within three in the final quarter, but their fate was sealed following three ill-timed misses from behind the arc by Jared Sullinger.
Marcus Thornton and Brandon Bass each scored 17 for Boston, while Tayshaun Prince had 13 points.
Marcus Smart continued to play well and did a great job shadowing Harden. Smart earned high marks from teammate Brandon Bass after the game:
“I think that’s why Danny (Ainge) drafted the young guy,” Brandon Bass said. “Because he saw something in him. And I think everybody expects that from him.”
The Celtics get back to action on Sunday, as they take on the Miami Heat at the TD Garden. The game tips-off at 1pm and should be a good appetizer before the Super Bowl.