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Boston - It was only the Celtics' sixth home tilt of the new year, in a busy January; where 15 games in 30 days have probably taken it's toll on the young C's. They returned to the TD Garden in what seemed like a run away victory for Kevin McHale's Rockets, Boston fought back but it wasn't enough as Houston held on to a 93-87 win on Friday night.
Donatas Motiejunas led all scorers with 26 points, 11-of-16 shooting (3-5 from 3) and grabbed 12 boards. Josh Smith finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while James Harden; the NBA's leader in points per game (27.3), struggled from the field with only 14 points (4-of-21) for Houston, who are now 33-14.
Brandon Bass scored 17 points to go along with 8 rebounds, and Marcus Thornton also finished with 17 points off the bench. Tayshaun Prince added 13 points in 21 minutes and Tyler Zeller chipped in with 7 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics who are now 16-29 on the season.
Boston was outscored 31-21 in the second quarter, and were down 18 (60-42) by halftime. The Celtics decided to play defense in the third, when they held Houston to 4-of-20 shooting for a total of 9 points in the quarter. The Celtics still trailed 69-64 going into the final frame.
Great defensive stops and forced turnovers by the C's for much of the fourth quarter got the home team within 3 points on a few occasions. The Rockets withstood a 6-0 run made by the Celtics with 3:04 remaining and were still up 82-79. After an alley-oop to Motiejunas and free-throws by Corey Brewer, Houston was up by five with 21 seconds to play. Avery Bradley (10 points) missed a 3-pointer as Boston's rally came up short.
"We just didn't start the game off with energy," said Tayshaun Prince. "Obviously, a team like Houston, when you let them spread the ball around and get aggressive, it's hard to stop them offensively."
The Celtics finally put together a great third quarter, after coming off two-consecutive poor second half starts in Utah (win) and Minnesota (loss). Despite climbing into a 19-point hole, Brad Stevens has to be pleased with the fact his team held the red-hot Rockets to 33 points on 11-of-38 shooting (28.9 percent) while forcing 13 turnovers (17 overall) over the final 24 minutes.
"To hold that team to 33 points is good," Stevens said. Six or eight of those were on free-throws at the end [of the game]. So I mean, you felt like you were guarding and making it difficult."
It was Boston's poor outside shooting (35.6 percent) throughout the night that truly sealed their fate, even without Dwight Howard manning the paint, the C's were outscored down low 46-32 and still had a fighter's chance to win the ball-game.
The Celtics will have a chance to snap their two-game losing streak when they take on the 20-26 Heat at the TD Garden on Super Bowl Sunday. Tip-off will be at 1 PM.
Boston is now 4-20 against teams over .500 this season. Phil Pressey and James Young both received healthy DNP's. Friday night marked the 21st anniversary of the day the Celtics retired Kevin McHale's number 32 into the rafters.
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