The Boston Celtics overcame a first quarter barrage to completely overwhelm a shorthanded Houston Rockets squad Sunday night on the road, 134-107.
Jaylen Brown led Boston with 24 points (21 in the first half). Jayson Tatum (23 points, six rebounds, six assists) and Kemba Walker (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) also took turns driving the freight train. The Green had a 19-point lead in the first half, pushed it to 30 points in the third quarter, unloaded the bench and cruised home from there.
It was a far cry from the early stages of the contest when the Rockets piled up 23 points in the opening six minutes. However, Boston recovered with a 16-5 run to close the opening stanza with a 38-34 advantage.
In contrast to their bumpy start, the C’s yielded just two points in the first six minutes of the second period to wrest control of the game.
The play of Robert Williams off the bench kick-started the run, shoring up the defense and getting the Green out in transition off his rebounds. The Time Lord finished with a line of 16 points (7-for-7 from the field), 13 rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes – one of the finest performances of his career.
Boston put things out of reach in the third, with Walker by piling up 11 points in a 1:45 stretch early in the frame. Several minutes later, Tatum converted a tough layup following a steal and behind-the-back move – a tightrope act that will undoubtedly pop up on future highlight reels.
Tristan Thompson ripped down 13 rebounds (five offensive) in the win. Marcus Smart was +18 in 19 minutes of play.
The Rockets were led by Victor Oladipo with 27 points (9-of-23 shooting). Kenyon Martin Jr. had 21. John Wall, Christian Wood, Eric Gordon and Danuel House Jr. sat with injuries.
The win pushed Boston’s record to 20-18 (8-13 on the road), just ahead of the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks for fifth in the Eastern Conference. They’re a half-game behind the Miami Heat for fourth place.
Next up for the Celtics: the team with the NBA’s best record, the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are 28-10 coming off a Sunday loss to Golden State, and are ranked in the top five both offensively and defensively. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night, with pregame coverage starting at 7:00 on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.