Celtics saw their biggest weakness exposed by Rockets in frustrating loss

(Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets are not a fun team to play against (or even watch, I'd advocate). They focus on a reliable formula however that has produced plenty of success for themselves in the regular season at least for the past few seasons under Mike D'Antoni: Take 3s and get to the free-throw line.

No team in the NBA has done more of both this year than Houston, who is attempting 43.9 3-pointers per game while getting to the line a league-best 26.5 attempts per game. Discarding starting center Clint Capela in an effort to open up the lane more on the offensive end and ensure five 3-point shooting threats are on the floor at all times was a further commitment to this mentality since the trade deadline

The Celtics knew all this coming into Houston while riding an impressive seven-game winning streak that came to an abrupt halt in a 116-105 defeat.

“You gotta all guard in your system. You gotta be disciplined without fouling,” Brad Stevens told reporters before the game. “It's easier said than done. but at the end of the day, if Harden gets 40 or 50, and they get 105, that's a lot better than them getting 125. There's a balance, you just do your best to strike that balance.”

James Harden did get his 40 points (42 to be exact) and Russell Westbrook got 36 points of his own as the hosts erupted for 69 points in the second half after Boston’s defense held strong over the first 24 minutes. The problem? The C’s held up well in just one of those areas (Rockets only shot 28.9 percent from 3-point range) but lacked good discipline when it came to fouling.

Harden (18 FT attempts) and Westbrook (13 FT attempts) outshot the Celtics at the free-throw line (25 attempts) by themselves in the victory, leading Houston to a 42 free throw attempts on the night, the most by a C’s