Celtics fall behind big to Rockets, can’t rally
HOUSTON -- Terrence Jones said he is feeling more comfortable and confident on the floor.
It has showed the last two games.
Jones scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets to their third straight victory, 109-85 over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.
Jones, who tied his previous career high with 14 points Saturday against Denver, was 10 of 12 from the field as the Rockets shot 57 percent as a team, including 72 percent in the first half in building a 24-point halftime lead.
"I’m just trying to make the simple plays and trying to be there for cuts and offensive rebounds," said Jones, who has started the last four games. "I’m just trying to do all the things to help us win."
Patrick Beverley chipped in 16 points, James Harden added 15 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Dwight Howard had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons each had 11 points as the Rockets raced out to a 17-point, first-quarter lead and were never threatened.
Houston also never trailed in its 122-111 victory over Denver and has not trailed since falling behind New York 61-60 with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter Thursday, a span of 112 minutes, 19 seconds.
Houston coach Kevin McHale said he hoped his team was catching a rhythm.
"I think the guys have done a really good job of being attentive and making corrections," McHale said. "We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re getting better all the time. That’s the encouraging thing. We have a lot of room for improvement still, but I can feel us starting to jell a little bit."
Courtney Lee had 17 points, Avery Bradley added 11 and Jared Sullinger had 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench for Boston, which lost its fourth in a row.
The Celtics shot 32 percent.
Boston coach Brad Stevens said he didn’t have anything he was excited about from Tuesday’s game.
"I want to make sure we don’t play like that again, so I never look at it as it was just one of those things because there is something behind when you don’t play the way you’re supposed to," Stevens said. "There are games where things just don’t go your way, but we’re letting one end affect the other, and you don’t do that against good teams."
The Rockets jumped out to an 18-1 lead in the first 5 minutes, capped by a follow dunk by Jones, who had six in the game-opening run. Beverley had five points in the stretch for Houston.
Howard pointed to Houston’s defense as the reason the Rockets ran out to the big lead.
"Terrence and myself tried to do a better job of protecting the paint and forcing teams to only get one shot," Howard said. "Once we do that, our young guys can get out and run. They did a good job of that tonight, of getting out and running early. We set the tone. That’s what we have to do."
Boston got its first point of the game on Jordan Crawford’s free throw 45 seconds in after a Houston defensive 3-second call, but the Celtics missed their first nine shots and had three turnovers before Bradley hit a jumper with 6:46 left in the first to cut the lead to 18-3.
"It was a slow start," Lee said. "We weren’t making shots, and were not executing our offense, and Houston got out and were running and were making easy layups, and everything they were running was working against us. It was definitely a bad start for us."
Boston, which shot 24 percent in the first quarter, cut the lead to 28-18 on Sullinger’s layup with 2:28 left in the period. However, Houston, which shot 80 percent in the first quarter, responded by ending the quarter on a 12-0 run capped by Omri Casspi’s 3-pointer to lead 40-18 after one.
Houston pushed the lead to 43-18 on a 3-pointer by Beverley a minute into the second quarter and Boston never got the lead below 18 the rest of the way.
The Rockets led 68-44 at the half and stretched the lead to 35 at 88-53 on Howard’s follow shot with 4 minutes to go in the third.
NOTES: Houston C Omer Asik, who has been the subject of trade rumors, played Tuesday after missing the last two games. "I was just frustrated," Asik said at Tuesday morning’s shootaround about missing the previous two games. "It is behind me now. I’m looking forward to help my team win." Asik would not discuss reports that he asked to be traded. ... High school senior Carly Wright, who has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, was granted a wish by the Rockets and the Make-A-Wish program as she attended shootaround and the game and met the team, including her favorite player, Parsons.
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