Rapid Reaction: Rockets 104, Celtics 92

BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Houston Rockets defeated the Boston Celtics 104-92 on Monday night at TD Garden:


Avery Bradley scored 14 of his team-high 24 points in the first quarter, while newly acquired Jerryd Bayless scored 15 of his 17 in the final frame, but it wasn't enough for Boston to overcome its defensive indifference during the middle frames. Dwight Howard scored a game-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting (many of the alley-oop variety as the Rockets built as much as a 20-point lead in the third quarter), then did enough at the charity stripe (10 of 18) to fend off Boston's late rally. All five Houston starters landed in double digits, including 16 apiece for James Harden (albeit on just 6-of-18 shooting with Bradley playing excellent defense) and Jeremy Lin (who added nine assists). Brandon Bass scored 14 points in a reserve role, while Jared Sullinger had eight points and 10 rebounds over 22 minutes in his first game back with the first unit.


The Celtics continued a recent home trend of fast starts, leading by as much as nine in the first quarter (and eight heading to the second quarter). But things turned quickly. The Rockets needed less than three minutes in the second frame to surge ahead and, later in the quarter, Houston embarked on a 14-2 run with Lin, Howard, and Harden teaming up to stretch out the lead. Houston led by as much as 20 in the third quarter and tried to put it on cruise control.


Down 19 entering the fourth quarter, the Celtics rode a red-hot Bayless and a Hack-a-Howard strategy to surge as close as seven (97-90) with 2:48 to go. In the final two minutes, the Celtics tried to lean on their defense (rather than the fluky foul strategy), but Lin hit a driving layup and a Bayless turnover led to a Terrence Jones layup to push the lead back to 12 with 89 seconds to go.


With Boston struggling to stop a Dwight Howard alley-oop-fest, rookie Vitor Faverani got a crack and didn't have much luck in a brief 4 ½ -minute stint. ... Keith Bogans was a healthy DNP. ... The Rockets finished with a 58-36 advantage in points in the paint. ... Both teams turned the ball over 15 times. ... The Rockets shot 46.8 percent from the floor overall, while Boston finished at 37.6 percent (38 of 101 overall).


The Celtics (13-26) have now lost nine in a row and 12 of 13 overall. This three-game homestand continues with visits from the Toronto Raptors (Wednesdy) and Los Angeles Lakers (Friday) before Boston heads out on a three-game road trip with stops in Orlando, Miami, and Washington.