The Houston Rockets stunned the Boston Celtics on their home court in a thriller that included an unexpected overtime period.
Russell Westbrook was as dominant as he has been over the past month, Jayson Tatum had another 30-point double-double and Jaylen Brown hit a miraculous shot that forced OT.
For more on this regular season classic, we have you covered with some takeaways below.
Russell Westbrook torches Celtics
Even with tenacious and fiesty defender Marcus Smart draped all over him in the first half, Russell Westbrook was still unstoppable.
Westbrook notched 20 points through the first two quarters, almost single-handedly keeping the Rockets in the game. He was attacking the rim relentlessly, putting all kinds of pressure on the Celtics defence. Though he was the only one that brought the energy in the first half, he clearly inspired his team for the second half run they would eventually make.
Westbrook never lost his edge the entire night - as you would expect - getting to the basket at will to finish with a game-high 41 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals shooting 16-for-27 (59.3%) from the field.
In what was expected to be the exclamation point on the game, he had a ferocious putback dunk that silenced the TD Garden crowd.
WESTBROOK. OMG. pic.twitter.com/GGrF1fdIcI- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 1, 2020
It didn't stay silent for too long though...
Jayson Tatum was great again, but don't forget about Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown has been awesome lately, and his insane 3-pointer to send this game into overtime isn't the only reason. With the Celtics trailing by three, Jayson Tatum intentionally missed a free throw to try and give his team a chance to tie the game. When Marcus Smart tipped the ball out to an open Brown at the top of the key, he stepped into it with confidence to send this game into OT.
JAYLEN SENDS IT TO OT!!! pic.twitter.com/E5SMOss32I- Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 1, 2020
Brown has fallen in the shadows of teammate Tatum a bit over this past month, but that doesn't discredit just how great he's been. Brown was a stud on defence in this one, making things as hard as possible for the league's leading scorer in James Harden, holding him to just 21 points on an ugly 7-for-24 shooting from the field and 4-for-17 shooting from 3.
On top of that, he was a constant for the Celtics offence, scoring 22 points for his fifth-consecutive game with 20-plus points.
As incredible as Tatum has been - and he was stellar again tonight, going for 32 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks to put a bow on his tear of the month of February - don't forget about Brown, whose quietly play a key role in Boston's recent stretch of success.
Third quarter flips the game
The Celtics defence was suffocating in the first half. They held the Rockets to just 45 points after two quarters, holding them to just 27.3% shooting from 3. Offensively, they were scoring with ease, shooting 47.7% from the field with four of their five starters in double figures heading into the break.
James Harden was frustrated. Eric Gordon and Danuel House Jr. couldn't hit a shot. Houston's only consistent source of offence came from Russell Westbrook as the Rockets went into halftime trailing by 11 points.
The third quarter was a completely different story. In fact, it was pretty much the exact opposite as the first two quarters.
Houston came out gunning as if they didn't just shoot 6-for-22 from beyond the arc in the first portion of the contest. They buried more 3s in the third quarter alone than they did in the first two quarters. Shooting 7-for-15 (46.7%) from 3 and a much-improved 13-for-22 (59.1%) from the field, the Rockets flipped the game on its head
Their defence forced Boston to shoot an ugly 7-for-21 (33.3%) from the field and 2-for-7 (28.6%) from long range, as well as three turnovers turning into eight points for Houston the other way.
They outscored the Celtics 36-22 in the frame to take a four-point lead heading into the fourth.
Small-ball Rockets finding success
Ever since the Rockets traded Clint Capela at the trade deadline, fully committing to their small-ball lineup, they've rattled off a 7-2 record.
And those two losses each bare some sort of an asterisk. Houston lost one game to the Phoenix Suns without Russell Westbrook, one of the major keys to their small-ball lineup. Their other loss came against the Utah jazz at the hands of an insane game-winning shot from Bojan Bogdanovic, one that couldn't be replicated if it were attempted 100 more times.
With their full small-ball lineup in the fold, they've been dominant, and they've beaten good teams, too. Their wins include the Celtics twice, the Jazz, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies so far - all of which are playoff teams in their respective conferences.
The stats look pretty too.
Rockets are 10-2 since going 6'7" or Less.- StatMuse (@statmuse) March 1, 2020
In that span they are:
- 1st in W% (tied with Bucks)
- 3rd in offensive rating
- 4th in point differential pic.twitter.com/z2ZNlTkSq4
*10-2 record includes games without Capela prior to the trade deadline.
The Rockets are doing things their own way and it's working. They stand in at 39-20, just one game back from the Western Conference's No. 2 seed.
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