EditorsNote: rewords second graf
James Harden matched his career high for 3-pointers, and the Houston Rockets extended their home-court winning streak to eight games with a 127-113 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday.
Harden scored a game-high 45 points, his eighth consecutive game with at least 35, and hit 9 of 18 3-point attempts to pace the Rockets to their eighth win in nine games overall. He survived a cool spell following a red-hot start only to catch fire again with four consecutive treys to help Houston pull away late.
The Rockets supplied Harden with ample help as Clint Capela produced a double-double (24 points, 18 rebounds) while Eric Gordon scored 20 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Austin Rivers and Gerald Green scored 10 points apiece off the Rockets’ bench. Houston, once 0-5 with point guard Chris Paul unavailable, has won three successive games without him.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 23 points and 11 assists. Marcus Morris added 19 points before being ejected with 4:38 to play following his second technical foul. Jaylen Brown tallied 18 off the bench for Boston, which erased a 17-point lead before falling behind for good in the third quarter.
Boston lost for the fourth time in six games.
The Rockets endured wild swings of proficiency shooting from 3-point range yet went 18 of 45 from deep (40 percent).
Harden was ablaze in the first quarter, scoring 17 of the Rockets’ 35 points in the opening frame while shooting 6 of 9 from the floor and 5 of 8 on 3-point tries. Houston carried an 11-point lead into the second quarter and extended it even while Harden sat, building a 50-33 advantage by shooting 62.5 percent while hitting 8 of 17 3-point attempts before Boston stemmed the tide with a timeout at the 8:13 mark.
The Celtics responded immediately following that break in the action, adjusting their defense on Harden and finally discovering their own offensive rhythm. While the Rockets shot 3 of 14 down the stretch of the first half, Boston mounted a 22-7 surge with Irving sinking three technical free throws as Morris chipped in with back-to-back 3-pointers to fuel the comeback.
Boston held Harden scoreless (on 0-for-6 shooting) in the second quarter. Irving and Morris each tallied 12 points by the break, and when Harden extended his dry spell to 11 consecutive misses, the Celtics finally forged ahead 77-76 when Irving completed a dazzling layup with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
That lead was the first for Boston since 10-8 in the first quarter. It was short-lived, and when Rivers beat the buzzer by banking in a 3-pointer to cap the third, the Rockets led 92-86.
—Field Level Media