November 17, 2015 / 5:54 AM / 3 years ago

Fast-breaking Celtics surge past slumping Rockets

(The Sports Xchange) - Celtics guard Avery Bradley scored 21 points off the bench and the Celtics turned a pair of back-breaking runs into a 111-95 victory over the struggling Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on Monday.

Nov 16, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) fight for a loose ball in the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Fellow guard Isaiah Thomas added 23 points and six assists as Boston (6-4) erased what was once a 15-point deficit with a 15-0 blitz late in the second quarter, a spurt that included eight points from Bradley.

Boston put the game on ice by closing the third quarter with another 15-0 run, turning a 72-68 lead into an 87-68 runaway entering the fourth.

Forward Jae Crowder added 16 points for the Celtics, whose ball-hawking halfcourt defense set the tone for the staggering momentum swing.

Boston scored a whopping 39 points off 22 Rockets turnovers and ran Houston (4-7) ragged with 22 fast-break points and 16 steals.

“One thing that we’ve been working on since the beginning of the year is being able to finish on the break as far as making the right play, if it’s a finish or making the next pass,” Bradley told reporters.

“I feel like we’re doing a good job with that.”

Rockets forward Trevor Ariza paired 19 points (on 4-of-10 three-point shooting) with nine rebounds but had four turnovers. Houston guards James Harden (16 points) and Ty Lawson added four turnovers apiece.

Houston appeared inspired early, particularly defensively, harassing the Celtics into a series of miscues and hurried shots beginning with the close of the first quarter.

The Rockets carried that surge into the second, opening a 42-27 lead with a 14-3 run capped by an Ariza three-point play and a transition basket by Lawson following a Corey Brewer steal.

However, the Celtics maintained contact, first with an 11-2 spurt that cut the deficit to 44-38, and also after the Rockets rebuilt their lead to 53-40 with their first devastating run.

Forward Amir Johnson started the push with a transition dunk at that 2:45 mark, and Bradley capped it with a three-pointer.

“We’re hanging our head,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “Things aren’t going our way and we hang our head. We haven’t put together really good basketball all year long.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart recorded team highs in rebounds (nine), assists (six) and steals (five), and posted a game-high plus-30 despite 1-for-11 shooting.

Boston, which entered the contest fourth in the NBA in defensive rating, has won five of six and claimed its first victory in Houston since March 19, 2010.

“We didn’t defend very well the first 15 minutes and then we defended for about 24 straight,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We really defended in that time.”

Editing by John O'Brien

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