PJ Tucker on how Rockets' win vs. Celtics will translate to playoffs

James Harden

Kyrie Irving struggled from the field in Houston. Erik Williams - USA TODAY Sports.

After coming back from 26 down (12 behind in the fourth quarter) to beat the Rockets in the Garden in December, the Celtics were outscored 16-7 in the last three minutes last night to suffer a 123-120 loss, thus becoming Houston's 15th straight victim. Boston ended up holding one of the league's best offenses to 98 points and pulled out the improbable victory by one point. "I go out there and try to play hard every night".

The Celtics carried that momentum into the fourth quarter as they continued their rally with good shot selection from the floor and defense that ultimately led to Houston shooting 25 percent from the floor in the second half.

Shredded by the Celtics' sublime offensive execution throughout, the Rockets arrived defensively at an opportune time.

Any time the Celtics and Rockets lock horns, all eyes are going to be one Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Rozier, in particular, has been fantastic, averaging 14.2 points and shooting 52.2 percent from 3-point range since the break.

Harden is arguably the leading MVP candidate this season, as his Rockets are atop the Western Conference standings, and while his assist and rebounding numbers have dipped from a year ago, he leads the league in scoring by more than three points a game. With the leading man for each team having an off night, other guys stepped up big.

Kobe Bryant wins his first-ever Oscar for 'Dear Basketball'
You'll be depressed when your career is over and you'll come back to playing.' I got that a lot. He said: "As basketball players, we're really supposed to shut up and dribble ".

When the two teams met three days after Christmas in Boston, the Rockets dominated the Celtics, putting up 62 points in the first half and holding Boston to 38. But instead, his size presented a mismatch for the Rockets, particularly when they were playing small. Despite poor night from the floor by both of their superstars, the Rockets found a way to overcome the best defense in the National Basketball Association to win on the road.

Paul, who sat out with an injury in the last matchup with the Celtics, added 15 points and Ariza had 21. Clint Capela was the only player on either team in double-digit rebounding, with 17.

The Rockets have been able to win on the road or at home, against lottery teams or contenders, and in close games or blowouts. The Celtics couldn't let Houston run down the clock, so they fouled Chris Paul and sent him to the line hoping he'd miss.

The Celtics built their lead as high as nine thanks to Greg Monroe's hook shot with 8:29 left before halftime, but the Rockets scored the next six points, and James Harden tied the game at 50 with a 3-pointer, only to see the Celtics take a 64-58 lead into halftime. A minute later, another turnover led to a game-tying three by Ariza.

Hearing footsteps and forcing passes into turnovers, the Celtics seemed routinely crushed by the Houston supporting cast of Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza in the clutch. Irving knocked down one and then attempted to miss the second by tossing the ball high off the backboard, yet when it hit front rim it spun around and in.

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