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Celtics fall to Rockets in return to Garden, drop ninth straight

01.13.14 at 9:53 pm ET

When the Celtics and Rockets matched up on Monday night, Boston clung to the hope that a change of scenery, and the end of its arduous road trip, would finally stop the bleeding.

But a night back in the TD Garden did nothing to suture the wounds administered from Boston’s disappointing five-game West Coast trip. The Celtics lost their ninth straight game, as the Rockets claimed a 104-92 victory. Boston has lost 12 of its last 13 games. The lost to Houston means that Celtics are 3-14 against the Western Conference this season.

Dwight Howard bullied the Celtics bigs with 32 points and 10 rebounds, and James Harden and Jeremy Lin chipped in 16 points apiece.

Avery Bradley led Boston in scoring for the third time in four games, as he tallied 24 points. Jerryd Bayless used a massive fourth quarter to post 17 points. Brandon Bass, coming off the bench, scored 14 points, and Jordan Crawford added 13.


Defending Dwight: Boston managed Houston’s behemoth center very well in the first quarter, as Howard scored eight points, but that figure came on eight shots and he only pulled down one offensive rebound. It’s no mistake that the Celtics led 27-19 at that point. But the final three quarters went nothing like the first one. Howard missed just one shot for the rest of the game, and accumulated 24 points on eight shots from the second quarter on. No Boston defender should be held solely culpable as the Celtics rotated a number of defenders on him, and the help defense required to shut down a player of Howard’s caliber was absent.

First half free throws: The difference at halftime was simple enough: the Rockets got to the free throw line, while the Celtics did not. Houston outshot Boston by a slim margin (Rockets=41.9 percent, Celtics=35.8 percent) front the field, Boston turned the ball over two times less than Houston and the rebounding figures were nearly deadlocked. But the Rockets made 16 trips to the line, and converted 13 times, en route to a 52-43 advantage. Boston reached the charity stripe just three times, as Crawford finished 3-for-3. Houston made seven more free throws than the Celtics in the second quarter, which the Rockets claimed emphatically 33-16.

Avery’s starting helpers: Bradley did everything he possibly could have to keep Boston in it, scoring a team-high 24 points and forcing Harden into 6-of-17 shooting. But the other four starters did next to nothing on offense to aid Bradley. Only Crawford reached double digits, and he achieved his 13 points at an inefficient 3-for-11 rate. Bradley finished the game 11-for-21 from the floor. The rest of his unit shot 10-for-39.


Bayless: With Boston trailing by 19 points after three quarters, Bayless received the opportunity to play the entire fourth quarter. The newly-acquired reserve guard ran with his chance, scoring 16 of his 17 points in the final frame and cutting the deficit to six points at one juncture late in the quarter. Bayless’ effort was not enough, but his performance will not be forgotten with starter Crawford struggling, and Boston thin at guard.

Bradley’s first: For the second straight game, Bradley erupted in the first quarter and helped push Boston to an early lead. Against Houston, Bradley tossed in 14 first-quarter points, and added three steals, two assists and two rebounds in a first quarter that Boston dominated, 27-19. He shot 6-for-8 from the field, and made five jump shots, including two 3-pointers. On Saturday, Bradley tallied 13 first-quarter points, again buried six shots and only missed one in the Celtics‘ loss to the Trail Blazers.

MarShon returns: MarShon Brooks, one of the returns in the trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets this offseason, made his first appearance for Boston since Dec. 22. Brooks ran the point for Boston and led a spirited fourth quarter, when the Celtics provided the crowd something to cheer for, for the first time since early in the second quarter. Brooks did not light up the stat sheet (two points, five rebounds, one assists in 12 minutes), but he ran the point with a confident aura that was not prevalent prior to his demotion to the D-League.

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