Boston Celtics 99, Houston Rockets 98.
It’s one to savor. One for the ages.
Coming back from 26 points down. Overcoming some questionable calls (well, during the first 47 minutes and 53 seconds, anyway.) Wiping that smug passive grin off the face of Rockets star James Harden. Reading Stephen A. Smith’s salty tweet postgame.
To be sure, it’s a long season, and “it only counts if you do it in June.” Still, beating the Rockets… in the fashion that the Celtics did Thursday night?
This is a game for your time capsule. Given which, we’ve taken some of the best writing by our staff, highlights posted around the net, advanced stats, and fan reactions from twitter and reddit — and collected them all in one place. It’s a holiday enjoyment pack, just in time for New Year’s.
1. Win-probability index
This Celtics-Rockets table (from our friends at Inpredictability.com) reads like a Picasso. It’s probably going up on our office wall. (Cc: Celtics247 legal team: please print this out and put a copy of it in our coffin when we’re buried.)
— Celtics 24/7 (@celts247) December 31, 2017
2. Marcus Smart & the draw-the-charge buzzer-beater
We’re still scrambling to find xamples from the history vault of single last-10-second charge drawn that was so pivotal… let alone two. But a few examples pop up in, for example, this 2015 reddit query.
— Manu Ginobli’s drawn-charge against Carmelo Anthony in a Spurs 113-112 win over the Denver Nuggets was pretty epic. It came as time expired. It also followed a running-bank-shot by Ginobli with 4.2 seconds. (One self-identified Pacers fan commented: “Hats off to the ref who called this. Most referees don’t have the balls to call any fouls in these late game situations… Right call for sure, too.”)
— Tyson Chandler took a critical charge against LeBron James during the 2011 Finals, in Game 5. The Mavs led 102-100 at that point, and the implicit 2-points-plus possession swing played a key part in the Mavs’s eventual 9-point-win. But note, it came with 2 minutes and 30 seconds left to play. So it was a big play, and an NBA Finals play, but by no means a last-second one.
We’ll keep searching. Meantime, though, Celtics fans can enjoy what may be an unprecedented occurrence. A Marcus Smart triple double: two drawn fouls within the final 10 seconds by the league’s last-two-time #2 vote recipient for MVP. (Elias Sports Bureau, call your office.)
3. Multiple clutch contributions
Marcus Morris 3-pointers spark a comeback. Rozier’s steal and stuff cuts the Rockets lead to 4. Pressure defense by Smart wears Harden down (0-7 shooting with 4 turnovers.) Tatum’s key blocks keep Boston in the game. Horford scores — giving the Celtics their first lead of the game with 00:03.7 remaining. Abdel Nader grabs 7 rebounds.
We’ll keep adding to this archive as time goes on, but meantime, here are some of the signature plays.
Horford scores for first Celtic lead of the game
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 29, 2017
Smart draws the charge — make that charges
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 29, 2017
Terry Rozier steal-and-stuff
4. 28-3 and all that
What is it about Boston sports teams, 20-something-point leads, and Houston (site of Superbowl LI?) Okay, this wasn’t the NFL Championship Game, and it wasn’t 28-3, but 41-15 looked awful ominous.
“Amazing how our most valuable player in Kyrie,” was the “LVP” (statistically) of the game, and had a so-so (for him) fourth quarter, one redditor wrote. “Yet we still managed to pull off the victory. Really shows the resilience of this team and the ability of other players to step up.”
I’ve rewatched that last sequence about 5 times already,” a post-game thread fan commented. “God I love our team.”
5. James Harden, All-NBA-foul-troll, All-NBA-whiner
(and other gems from the post-game commentaries)
After the game, Harden and the Rockets complained about the offensive fouls called against him. (He also blasted NBA referees after a recent loss to the LA Clippers.)
The NBA’s official two-minute report didn’t seem to bear him out, but, oh, well.
The Celtics — such as Irving — agreed that the 2-man-crew situation was infelicitous. But as Irving wryly pointed out, the Celtics played under the same conditions. Irving wisely encouraged his teammates, particularly at half-time, to adapt and survive. And adapt they did.
Indeed, in a way, the final 7 seconds and the fallout afterwards encapsulates the difference between the two teams. The Rockets: star-oriented, entitled, plaintive, and apt to fold at crunch time. (Doug and Wendy Whiner.) The Celtics: gritty, humble, determined, never-say-die, take-your-best-punch, smile, and come back swinging. (Rocky Balboa.)
A win rich in Celtic-ness
At the end of the day, it comes back to those “Smart” defensive plays. As former temmate Isaiah Thomas put it:
Smart doing smart things lol…
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) December 29, 2017
There’s something special about a victory in which the signature play involves Marcus Smart… and not a spectacular shot, but a spectacular stop. Or two.
And there’s something to be said about the game-winning shot coming from quiet Al Horford, who had the guts to put up the do-or-die, no-glass jump hook on an off shooting night.
There’s something “Boston Celtics” about it.