It was a battle of MVP candidates when the Celtics hosted the Rockets at the TD Garden.
Isaiah Thomas not only outscored James Harden, but carried his team to a 120-109 victory on Wednesday night.
In a much needed win for the C's, Thomas didn't disappoint the home crowd as he finished with 38 points (13 in the fourth), 9 assists and 5 rebounds to help snap a three-game losing streak.
"It's stuff you dream of as a little kid," Thomas said. "I always said to be in the Garden, to play for the Celtics and for them to be chanting MVP is like, it doesn't seem real."Jae Crowder added 23 points and 10 rebounds while Al Horford totaled 20 points and 9 assists for Boston, who are now 27-18 on the season.
James Harden scored 30 points on 6-of-18 shooting (2-11 from behind the arc) and handed out 12 assists on the night. Ryan Anderson contributed with 19 points and Sam Dekker chipped in 15 points off the bench for the Rockets, who were playing without Eric Gordon (back).
In a bizarre first half of basketball, the Celtics were called for three technical fouls (including Brad Stevens) and the Rockets got to the free-throw line 20 more times than the C's (26-6) but Boston only trailed, 58-52, before intermission.
The Celtics would erase the deficit to lead by as many as eight points in the third quarter before Houston pulled ahead, 88-86, to start the fourth.
With the game tied at 98 a piece and 5:12 remaining, Thomas sank two free-throws after a flagrant-1 call on Harden (he hit Jonas Jerebko's mouth after driving towards the basket), followed by a jumper and a running hook to put the Celtics up 104-98 as they never looked back.
Terry Rozier (5 points and 3 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer while Horford and Crowder made a couple of fast-break layups to cap off a Celtics 13-2 run to put the Rockets away and avenge a loss from last month in Houston.
It was Boston's only second win over Houston in the last eight meetings between these two teams. The Celtics handed the Rockets, who are now 34-15, their first back-to-back loss of the season.
This is easily the C's best win of the year in a great team effort to finally get their first victory over a team with .650 record or better in nine attempts.
Boston will host the Orlando Magic on Friday in a first of another back-to-back before heading out on the road. Tip-off is at 7:30 PM.
Jonas Jerebko got his lip split open by James Harden late in the fourth quarter, he received stitches after the game and was asked about the incident.
"It wasn't intentional or anything," said Jerebko, who started for Amir Johnson and finished with 7 points and 7 rebounds. "Stuff happens."Jaylen Brown started in place of Marcus Smart, who apologized for his heated argument with assistant coaches during the end of the Celtics loss to the Wizards on Tuesday night, calling his behavior 'unprofessional' on Twitter. Brad Stevens insisted before tip-off that the change in the starting line-up had nothing to do with Smart's outburst.
"That was one of the first times where you could tell his emotions took control of him," said Thomas. "We know he means well and we need him to be Marcus Smart, and he was Marcus Smart tonight."Smart finished with 7 points and 6 assists in 30 minutes off the bench.
Picture used via the Associated Press