This was a thoroughly dominant performance by Howard, who took advantage of the Celtics' smallish frontline with a series of alley-oops and easy inside buckets. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and survived a Hack-a-Dwight strategy by Boston in the fourth quarter. Howard ended up going 10-of-18 from the charity stripe overall.
Jeremy Lin played a big role in Howard's outing, setting him up very well by making beautifully timed lobs and tosses into the post. Lin finished with 16 points and nine assists.
The Rockets, who led by as much as 20, scored 58 points in the paint.
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing for Houston down the stretch.
The Celtics rallied to trim Houston's lead to seven with under three minutes to go, thanks mostly in part to Jerryd Bayless, who scored 15 of his 17 in the fourth and final period. The Rockets have had a tendency to blow big leads this season. In their last game, they were forced to rally after blowing a 25-point lead to the Washington Wizards.
Houston held on this time, though, getting a couple of timely buckets. Howard splitting free throws every time Boston intentionally fouled him helped, too.
Avery Bradley led the C's with 24 points and did a remarkable job on James Harden, holding the star 2-guard to 16 points off 6-of-18 shooting.
Still, poor shooting (37.6 percent) and faulty interior defense did the Celtics in.
Boston has now lost 12 of its last 13 overall.
With the win, the Rockets swept the season series.