Spurred by surprising performances by secondary players and an off game from Boston's top stars, the Houston Rockets defeated the Celtics, 101-89, on Friday night to bring their record back to .500.
Houston's overarching effort was led by two second-year players, Greg Smith and Chandler Parsons. Smith dominated the Boston interior all night, scoring seven baskets inside the paint en route to his second 20-plus-point performance of the month.
Parsons, meanwhile, had an extremely well-rounded contest. The former Florida star dropped 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, but also added nine rebounds and eight assists to get within touching distance of a triple-double.
Outside of those two, just about every other notable player struggled, as Friday night's game plodded along for the most part.
James Harden scored 21 points, but he shot just 6-of-17 from the field and needed to drain 7-of-8 free throws to salvage his night. Meanwhile, Jeremy Lin's 38-point performance from Monday night continued to be more like an aberration than anything.
Boston's top stars struggled just as badly. Paul Pierce scored 18 points but shot an embarrassing 5-of-18 from the field, and Kevin Garnett had only 14 points and five rebounds. Although Rajon Rondo came through with 15 points and 13 assists, his teammates just could not pick up the slack.
When it comes down to it, Houston's secondary players and bench stepped up, while Boston's faded to the background. It's a rather familiar story for a Celtics team that has floundered around the .500 mark despite being considered preseason championship contenders.
Player of the Game: Greg Smith
Parsons had a more well-rounded game, but it was Smith's surprising dominance inside that stole the show. Entering the game for Omer Asik at every juncture, the second-year forward took it to Garnett, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, only to get little resistance in return.
Smith also grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots to go along with his 20 points, proving his great performance was not just on one end of the floor.
What's Next for the Celtics?
There will be no schedule reprieve for the 12-10 Celtics on their road trip, as they stay in Texas to take on the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night.
What's Next for the Rockets?
The 11-11 Rockets, on the other hand, get a 24-hour break before taking on the Toronto Raptors on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.