James Harden, Rockets Beat Up Celtics In 115-104 Win [VIDEO]
The Houston Rockets offense led by James Harden has evolved into basketball’s version of the three true outcomes. Either someone will launch a three, a quick drive to the hoop will result in a layup or they’ll be sent to the line. On Sunday, against the Boston Celtics, they did all three. By halftime, the visiting team found themselves up 65-43. Harden was good for 23 points in the first 24 minutes and teammate Eric Gordon knocked in another 20 to match Boston by themselves. Houston’s squad would eventually win 115-104.
In the first five minutes, the Celtics turned the ball over five times. Coach Mike D’Antoni made sure his team capitalized on the opportunity and they found ten unanswered points. But that wasn’t the end of Brad Stevens‘s nightmare. His squad failed to play help defense or even cover ball-handlers when they beat their man on a drive. That led to uncontested layup after uncontested layup. Harden scored more than half of his first 31 points —16 in total — in the paint.
Boston has fallen hard for the age-old theory that a player returning from injury is like a new acquisition. The entire season has been plagued by hopes that Gordon Hayward will return to his previous All-Star form and the team went into Sunday betting on Aron Baynes. The big man out of New Zeland had missed 11 games due to a left foot contusion. With his return, the team banked on a defensive upgrade. Instead, the Rockets went right after him. Harden ebbed and flowed around screens, forcing defenders to swap onto him, and driving past Baynes for an easy layup multiple times.
Harden ended the night with 42 points, four assists and seven rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Gordon scored an additional 32 for the Rockets. The two combined for 74 points on 51 percent shooting. The Celtics as a team didn’t surpass that amount until nearly 10 minutes into the third quarter.
The Rockets will take on the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night in what could serve as a potential NBA Finals preview. The Celtics will hope to get things back on track against the Golden State Warriors that same night.
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