It was an ugly start for the Celtics, who for the second time in two games, looked sluggish out of the gate.
Omer Asik controlled the floor, running all over Kevin Garnett in the first as Houston took a 15-4 lead early. Courtney Lee was arguably the most energetic Celtic, playing against his former team for the first time this year, as he led Boston with a team-high five points in the first.
Chandler Parsons notched a nice five point, three assist and three rebound opening quarter as the Rockets took a 27-19 lead into the second quarter.
Boston opened the second quarter with noticeably more energy and a sense of urgency. They were quicker on defensive rotations, jumping lanes and forcing turnovers, and found their rhythm in transition. The Celtics used an 18-2 run to take the lead late, leading to a 45-43 advantage at the half.
After having five turnovers each in the first quarter, Boston turned the ball over only two more times in the second quarter as the Rockets gave the ball away seven more times. At halftime, Paul Pierce had 12 points to lead the Celtics, while Greg Smith had 11 points off the bench as the leading scorer for Houston.
Houston opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run as the Rockets ran the veteran Boston unit into the ground. Garnett returned to the floor after a long layoff– sitting from the six minute mark in the third until early in the fourth– but it was simply too late for the Celtics to get back into the game.
Every opportunity at a Celtics run was shut down by James Harden, Toney Douglas and the Rockets young core. Boston cut the Houston lead to six in the fourth before a buzzer-beating three by Harden and back-to-back clutch makes from Douglas gave the Rockets the permanent lead.
Boston's problems ranged from slow transition defense to missing open shots. The Celtics shot only 40 percent from the field on the night and allowed the Rockets to score 25 points in transition.
Against a Houston squad that allowed an average of 104 points per game, the Celtics only managed to score 89.
Smith led the Houston bench with 20 points, as Harden scored 21 in 38 minutes with the starting unit. Pierce scored 18, Garnett scored 14 and every Boston starter finished the night with a negative +/-.
Boston will continue their Texas road trip when they travel to match up with the San Antonio Spurs from AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.
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