The Celtics earned one of their biggest wins of the season in their epic comeback against the Rockets. But they can also thank Houston's James Harden for melting down in the closing seconds.
Harden committed two offensive fouls against Marcus Smart in the final 7.3 seconds of the Celtics' 99-98 win on Thursday night. The first gaffe allowed Al Horford to sink the go-ahead shot from the low post. Immediately following that crucial mistake, Harden's second foul turned the ball back over and killed Houston's chance for a game-winner.
Harden had a chance to take the blame for the loss when he met reporters after the game. Instead, he took the easy way out. He blamed the officiating - specifically, the short two-person crew.
"First of all, how do you only have two officials on a national TV game? That's the first question," said Harden.
LISTEN: Horford sinks go-ahead shot, Harden commits costly foul
James Harden: Excuse-Maker?
In addition, Harden expressed displeasure with the Celtics' Marcus Smart, who played some of his most tenacious defense of the season in the win. Harden apparently believes he should get more calls than he does.
"[There was] a lot of grabbing, a lot of holding. How else am I supposed to get open?" asked Harden. "Gotta ask, with two arms wrapped around my whole body.
"But like I said, it's just tough. You can't have two officials in a professional game. There's a lot of no-calls that need to be called, because that changes the dynamic of the game. ... It's a professional game. National TV. Can't happen."
James Harden: You can't have only 2 officials in a national TV game pic.twitter.com/snmoFOBjif
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) December 29, 2017
Harden may have a point. It's odd that the NBA assigned just three officials to a nationally televised game between two elite teams. They had no backup plan after referee Mark Lindsay hurt his back and had to sit the game out, leaving the game with just two refs. In fact, the Celtics had their issues with the crew as well.
As for the calls themselves, perhaps you think Smart flopped on the first one. However, the second foul was a pretty clear charge - and arguably an even dumber play than the first one.
Nonetheless, complaints about officiating are hardly valid arguments for such egregious mistakes at the end of games. They're definitely not an excuse for blowing a 26-point lead. In other words, Harden should worry more about being more careful in those situations.
-- By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff.