The Boston Celtics managed to shut down the NBA’s leading scorer for most of the second half and overtime. Just one problem. Russell Westbrook scored 41 points and Harden had 21, including a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left in overtime to give the Houston Rockets a 111-110 victory on Saturday night. Boston rallied from a four-point deficit in the final 20 seconds of regulation and sent the game to overtime on Brown’s 3-pointer at the buzzer after an intentionally missed free throw. The Celtics scored the first basket of the extra period and led 110-109 but did not score in the final 2:49 of the game, missing their last six shots.
Harden, who averages almost 35 points, was held to nine points on 3-for-12 shooting over the final 29 minutes, going scoreless for all of the fourth quarter. Westbrook also had eight rebounds and five assists, scoring 18 in the second half and three more in overtime. Robert Covington added 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won six straight and 10 of their last 12 while beating Boston five times in a row. Jayson Tatum had 32 points and 13 rebounds, Marcus Smart scored 26 points and Brown had 22 for the Celtics. Daniel Theis had 15 rebounds for Boston, the last in the final seconds of overtime to set up a short baseline jumper that was released after the buzzer before harmlessly swishing through the net.
The Celtics had won 14 of their previous 17 games and could have moved into a tie with Toronto atop the Atlantic Division with a win. Boston led by as many as 17 in the first half, but the Rockets scored 13 straight points near the beginning of the second to take their first lead of the game 66-64. Boston missed nine straight shots into the fourth quarter and still trailed 102-98 after Westbrook hit one of two free throws with 19 seconds left. Smart leaned in for a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game, but Westbrook got away on the fast break and Theis reached out to grab him; they had to go to a replay to determine that it wasn’t a clear path foul. The Houston guard hit both free throws to make it 104-101 with 8.1 seconds left in regulation.
The Rockets sent Tatum to the line, where he missed the first free throw. He intentionally banged the second off the front of the rim, Smart deflected the ball and Brown grabbed it at the top of the key before hitting the tying 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime, tied 104-all. Kemba Walker missed his 5th consecutive game since the All-Star break. The Celtics are still a problem and Walker should return Tuesday as they host the Brooklyn Nets. The Rockets will look to extend their winning streak to 7 as they visit the Knicks on Tuesday. With the win, Houston is a game behind the Nuggets and Clippers for the second spot in the West. Did you except the Rockets beat Celtics? Did you want the Rockets beat Celtics?