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Dog days of March could lead to glory days in May for Celtics 03.07.12 at 9:31 am ET
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At the end of the season, we’ll look back at the schedule and see the Celtics‘ 97-92 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Rockets in early March. The box score and game details will show that Boston was down 10, with just over 5½ minutes left, and coming off an emotional overtime win over the Knicks. All of these components add up to the type of game that galvanizes a team.

Not in the 2011-12 season, though. This was ugly basketball at its finest (or sloppiest, depending on how you want to look at it). Tuesday night’s game featured more candidates to be on Sportscenter’s “Not Top 10 Moments” than actual sound basketball plays. But after 53 grueling minutes of basketball, the Celtics were the ones that don’t have to look back regretting they lost a game neither team deserved to win.

“It was a no-energy game,” Doc Rivers said. “You can feel it. I even said at halftime even the building had no energy. It’s just one of those nights. And our guys kept talking about grinding the game.”

The Celtics fell behind by seven after one quarter. Uncharacteristically, Boston had a great second quarter, and took a six-point lead into halftime. The C’s bolstered the margin to double digits in the third quarter. The Rockets responded by going on an impressive 35-11 run that propelled them to a 10-point lead with just over 5½ minutes left.

“It was definitely a strange game,” Paul Pierce said. “It was a battle of wills. One team wanted it one quarter, then the [other the next]. Like a seesaw battle. They make a run, we make a run, they make a run. Nobody could really just put the other team away.”

As the Celtics’ four-game winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy, they turned to the foundation that this team has been built on these past five seasons — defense. Their rotations were crisp. Houston muddled around the perimeter, and with every swing pass the recipient was greeted by a Boston defender. The imposing defensive style forced consecutive shot-clock violations, and with just under two minutes left the Houston lead had dwindled to just three.

“The defensive energy picked up,” Ray Allen said. “When they went on a run, we weren’t getting any stops. They kind of dictated how the game was being played. We changed that by pushing them up away from the basket. Everything that they had was contested, and we got rebounds.”

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