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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Rockets defeat Celtics 116-105 behind combined 78 points from Harden and Westbrook
Posted: February 12, 2020 -- 7:55 a.m. CT
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets head into the NBA's All-Star break on a winning note. The Rockets defeated the Boston Celtics 116-105 Tuesday night to snap the Celtics' 7-game win streak. With the win tonight, the Rockets have won four straight against the Celtics for the first time since 11/19/13-1/30/15.
Houston heads into All-Star break having won eight of the past 12 games.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook combined to score 78 points in the ball. Harden scored 42 points on 19 field goal attempts. Harden has scored 40 or more points on fewer than 20 field goal attempts eight times in his career. No other active player has done so more than five times.
Harden scored 19 consecutive points in the third quarter to help the Rockets erase a 49-47 halftime deficit and outscore the Celtics 31-22 in the quarter and lead 78-71 after 36 minutes.
Westbrook scored 36 points on 13 for 23 field goal shooting and 10 for 13 free throw shooting.
Harden (17 for 18) and Westbrook (10 for 13) combined to shoot more free throws than the Celtics (20 for 25).
"Those guys are two of the best in the world and they showed it again tonight," Brad Stevens, Celtics Head Coach said after the game.
"You have to play without fouling," Boston forward Gordon Hayward said. "It's definitely easier said than done. They attack and just their ability to hit shots makes you want jump; but, certainly, we have to be better at that."
Houston (34-20) led 96-94 after Boston (37-16) scored 5 straight points. Rockets Head Coach Mike D'Antoni called timeout. After the timeout, Harden was fouled while attempting a three-point shot. Harden made all 3 foul shots. Twelve seconds later, after a Celtics' turnover, P.J. Tucker was fouled during a loose ball scramble. Tucker made both free throws for a 101-94 Rockets' lead.
Hayward scored a layup; but, Westbrook dished to teammate Danuel House Jr for a wide open corner 3. House swished the shot; then, after Hayward sank two free throws, the Celtics had a defensive breakdown which left Russ unguarded and the lane wide open. Westbrook scored a reverse layup on an easy drive to the hoop. Houston led 106-98 after the layup.
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After a miss by Marcus Smart, Houston's Robert Covington pulled down the rebound. Covington missed a three-point shot; but, Westbrook snared the offensive rebound and passed to House who was cutting to the hoop. House scored the layup and the Rockets led by 10 with 3:33 remaining in the game.
Harden added three free throws and a three-point basket while Westbrook scored another layup for a 116-98 lead with 1:56 left in the ball game. Houston's 20-4 run happened in less than 4 minutes.
"It shows what we're capable of, especially getting stops on demand against a really good basketball team," Westbrook said. "We did a good job of taking care of business."
"They (the Celtics) weren't real sharp down the end," D'Antoni acknowledged. "We were a lot better. Overall I thought we played a very good game."
The Rockets won despite shooting 28.9% from 3-point range (13 for 45).
The Rockets next game is Thursday, February 20, in San Francisco, against the Golden State Warriors. Tip is set for 9:30 p.m.
Russ has scored 36 or more points while shooting 54.0% or better in each of his past three games played. That is tied for the longest streak by any player since a 4-game span by Shaquille O'Neal from Nov. 18 to Nov. 24, 1999 (15 other 3-game streak since then).
Robert Covington filled the stat sheet with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 4 blocks. It's the ninth time he has recorded 3 or more steals and 3 or more blocks in the same game in his career, all coming since the start of 2015-16.
Danuel House Jr. had 17 points and 9 rebounds. Over the past nine games, he is averaging 13.1 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game after averaging 6.8 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game the 12 games prior. House has scored 15 or more points in three of the past nine games after not doing so in any of the 12 games prior.
Harden has scored 40 or more points in three of the past six games after not doing so in any of his previous seven games played. Houston is 17-2 when he scores 40 or more points this season.
Houston was only outrebounded by three tonight and had one more rebound than Boston in the fourth quarter. The Rockets were outrebounded by an average of 11.4 rebounds per game over the past eight games. Houston only has one less rebound than opponents in the fourth quarter over the past nine games.
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