They beat the Houston Rockets in March by strangling them from the 3-point line on in. But last night --having just sprint to 100 in a loss to the Thunder -- they found themselves in another scoring race, ultimately being outgunned 119-114 in overtime by a Rockets team that was scorching from the three point line.
The Celtics ran cold in the extra frame, shooting 2 of 8. Luis Scola stuck the dagger in, capping a 27-point night with a 19-footer with 51 seconds left.
Doc Rivers put his shooters on the floor the next possession trying to get Michael Finley a look, but Kendrick Perkins was whistled for an offensive foul away from the ball, killing the play.
Rajon Rondo put up another double-double (23 points, 10 assists), passing Bob Cousy for the team's single season assist record, and the Celtics needed his scoring as much as they needed his playmaking to offset Aaron Brooks (30 points, 9 assists).
The two point guards dueled in a constant game of call and response.
Rondo stayed in Brooks' pocket in the fourth quarter, when he picked three of his five steals, including one he snagged almost out of Brooks hands and raced the other way for a layup that made it 102-96 with 3:34 left in the fourth.
But with the Rockets down down 106-109 and under a minute left, Brooks splashed a 3-pointer from 26 feet to tie it up. Celtics coach Doc Rivers put the ball in Paul Pierce's hands, but after trying to break his man down off the dribble, Pierce fired a fadeaway from the free throw line that didn't beat the buzzer.
The scales started to tip in Rondo's favor in the fourth quarter, when he picked Houston for three of his five steals. With 8:32 left in the fourth, he jumped in front of a pass intended for Brooks, went the other way with it for a lay-up that knotted it up.. He
He gave the Celtics another possession when he jumped in front of Brooks for a second straight steal. The Celtics capitalized, using a long Rasheed Wallace jumper for the go-ahead bucket.
By the end of the third quarter both teams were still shooting greater than from the floor.. The lead changed hands six times on six shots in the third. Paul Pierce scored 13 of his 27 points in the third, going 4 for 4 from the floor, knocking down both of his threes.
Everything seemed to fall early on for the Celtics. They knocked down 12 of their first 15 shots, stretching out their lead to as much as 11 points just 7 minutes into the first quarter, appearing to be on the way to stopping a two-game losing skid by dismantling a Rockets team that was already missing piece, including Trevor Ariza who missed last night's game with a stomach ailment.
But they'd give almost all of it back by the end of the quarter, letting the Rockets heat up from 3-point range. Aaron Brooks, who was more or less suffocated in an 11-point performance in last month's meeting between the two teams, had eight by the end of the first.
The Celtics have taken 3 of the 5 games on this homestand with Cleveland coming in on Sunday, but they've allowed an average of 101.4 points in those games.