In an often times brutal match, the Celtics were out-hustled and out-played by a sharp shooting Rockets team that grabbed the lead and never let go.
Technical fouls on Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis reflected the tense nature of the match. At one point a rough Jordan Hill foul saw Davis lunge towards him in anger, only to be restrained by his team mates. Clearly frustrated by their own poor play, and the dubious nature of a number of calls, the Celtics dug themselves deep into a hole from which they were unable to recover.
The Houston Rockets' backcourt dominated the Celtics. Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin combined for 45 points, 18 of those coming from behind the three point line. Buoyed by an ebullient home crowd, the Rockets were dominant on offence, outpacing the Celtics 34-18 in the second quarter on the way to building their insurmountable lead.
The Celtics offence, on the other hand, just never got started. Poor shooting from Pierce (2 of 10) and Rondo (2 for 11) reflected the team's struggles. Productive games from Jeff Green (15 points, 2 blocks) and Glen Davis (16 points, 7 rebounds) were unable to compensate for the woeful Celtics' offence. There is perhaps no more telling statistic for the game than the fact that Rondo's eleven field goal attempts were a team high. A team high in field goal attempts from a player not known for his offensive game, having a bad shooting night? Surely a symptom of a team that had lost its way.
By half time the game's outcome was clear. Doc Rivers sat his starting five for much of the second half, hoping to save their energy for the rest of their three game road trip. And they will need it. Despite this loss the Celtics are still in the race with the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference's top seed, with the Bulls loss to the Indiana Pacers.
However, if Friday's game is any indication, it is highly unlikely that the Celtics will be able to hold onto the top seed until the season's end.