Thomas, Crowder Push Celtics Past Rockets, 120-109

By GETHIN COOLBAUGH, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas had 38 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder scored 23 and the Boston Celtics beat the Houston Rockets 120-109 on Wednesday night.

It was Thomas’ 15th game this season with at least 30 points and his 29th consecutive outing with 20 or more. Crowder grabbed 10 rebounds and Al Horford totaled 20 points and nine assists for Boston (27-18), which had lost three straight games.

James Harden finished with 30 points and 12 assists, Ryan Anderson scored 19 and Sam Dekker had 15 off the bench as the Rockets (34-15) lost for the sixth time in nine games.
Boston erased a six-point halftime deficit, and Crowder’s layup with 10:06 left in the third quarter gave the Celtics a 62-61 lead. His running layup at the 6:58 mark put them ahead 73-66.

Boston stretched the lead to eight before Rockets pulled to 88-86 entering the fourth.

With 5:12 remaining and the game tied at 98, Thomas hit two free throws after a flagrant-1 foul on Harden and followed with a jumper and a driving hook to put the Celtics up 104-98.

Terry Rozier hit a 3-pointer before layups by Horford and Crowder capped the 13-2 spurt that put the game out of reach.

Harden and Anderson combined for 18 points in the first quarter, and the Rockets clung to a 27-24 advantage after one.

Dekker’s turnaround jumper pushed Houston’s lead to double figures at 44-33 with 6:40 to play before halftime, matching its largest lead. Boston whittled the lead down to 58-52 at the break after Horford’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Harden scored 37 points and Houston escaped with a 107-106 win in its only other meeting with Boston this season on Dec. 5. Horford missed a potential game-winning layup as time expired.

TIP-INS
Rockets: G Eric Gordon (lower back tightness) was a last-minute scratch. He missed back-to-back games earlier this month with a left big toe sprain. Gordon is Houston’s second-leading scorer at 17.4 points per game. … C Nene (rest) had the night off after playing two games in three days before Tuesday’s off day.

Celtics: G Marcus Smart did not start, but coach Brad Stevens insisted that decision had nothing to do with Smart’s heated argument with assistant coaches during Tuesday’s game at Washington. “We’re going to start differently tonight, but that’s because I want to start differently,” Stevens said. F Jaylen Brown replaced Smart, who had started eight of Boston’s last 11 games. … G Avery Bradley (sore right Achilles) missed his fourth straight game. Stevens said last Saturday that Bradley would miss all four games this week.

UP NEXT
Rockets: Continue a five-game road trip at Philadelphia on Friday.
Celtics: Wrap up a two-game homestand Friday against Orlando.

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