In need of something to finally go right, and for some shots to fall, the Boston Celtics were able to back in the win column on Friday night. They took down the Houston Rockets 118-102 at TD Garden, getting a balanced scoring attack for the first time in what felt like ages. The Rockets, meanwhile, are back on another losing streak, having just finished up a 20-game stretch without a win, and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel for them.
Jayson Tatum and Christian Wood came out ready to carry their teams in the first quarter, scoring 9 and 10 points respectively as the Celtics managed to build a 8-point lead after one. It looked like the game might get ugly quickly, but the Rockets put together a little run and actually managed to take a lead with a little more than 3 minutes until halftime. However, Boston closed the first half on a 9-0 run and never looked back from there. The C’s took a 52-44 lead into the break, and quickly built a 10-point cushion in the third quarter that they never relinquished. The gap grew as large as 24 in the fourth quarter, and the C’s coasted to victory.
There’s no debate that the Rockets are terrible, but a game like this is just as important for the standings as it is for the mental state of this team. The trade deadline was a bit of a letdown, especially with how poorly their biggest acquisition, Evan Fournier, had played (more on that later), and the team had basically look disinterested in winning for most of their recent losses. In a season that has been a total disappointment, the last week had been a perfect microcosm of everything that had gone wrong. But for one night, that changed.
The first storyline from this game is Evan Fournier. Brought over from the Orlando Magic at the deadline, he is going to be expected to be the Celtics’ third or fourth offensive option every night, but he had struggled mightily in his early Celtics career. This game was a different story, especially in the fourth quarter. He caught fire from 3, making six in the final frame to set a new career-high for 3’s in a game, finishing at 7 total. He ended with 23 points, after combining for only 6 in his first two games with Boston.
Hopefully this will continue for Fournier, as this kind of production off the bench would be a huge addition to this team. For long stretches, they’ve heavily relied on Tatum or Jaylen Brown as their only offense, so Fournier becoming consistent would be great for the team.
The second storyline from this game is Angry Jaylen Brown. After getting whacked on the face while making a driving layup midway through the third quarter, Brown motioned at an official about the lack of a call and picked up a technical foul. After that, he went beast mode, playing with the fire that set him apart for the first few years of his career, something that has been lacking this season. And he was instantly rewarded with some of the best play we have seen from him in a little while, even as he continues to play at an All-Star level. He first nailed a midrange jumper, then dunked all over Kenyon Martin Jr, before finally trying to put Kelly Olynyk on a poster while getting fouled. And of course, his intensity on the defensive end picked up as well.
This team needs to see energy like that more often, so if Brown could motivate his teammates to play with that fire as well, it would go a long way towards righting this ship. As a team that has consistently played at well less than the sum of its incredibly talented parts, the Celtics need to start playing with some actual intensity and desire to win, or else this season will continue to go nowhere. Hopefully, seeing the results from playing that way tonight will inspire them, but in the end, it’s up to them to choose to play this way night in and night out.
Overall, this was a game that Boston had to win. The Rockets are terrible, and the Celtics need to start making some kind of run so they can avoid the play-in tournament, because this team can’t be counted on to show up in a win-or-go-home situation. But hey, if Tatum, Brown and Fournier can combine for 71 points like they did tonight, things might finally be looking up for this otherwise dreadful season. Next up for Boston is a matchup with old friend Gordon Hayward and the Charlotte Hornets, and a chance to get back to .500 on Easter Sunday at 6pm.
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