The Boston Celtics, as they have so many times in the last five seasons, relied on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to overcome a 10-point deficit later in the fourth quarter, get the game into overtime, and then pull out the 97-92 win at home over the Houston Rockets.
The Big Three scored every one of the Celtics' 13 overtime points in outlasting a Rockets team that, by the end of the game, looked like they were trying to dribble out the last seven minutes of the game.
The Rockets got 18 points each from Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola, but they combined for two points in the fourth quarter. Kevin Martin, the team's leading scorer for this season, sat out the entire fourth quarter as the Rockets elected to use two point guards, Lowry and Goran Dragic for the remainder of the game.
That move backfired as the Rockets struggled late in the game, trying to exhaust all time with too slim of a lead and had little offensively to show for it down the stretch. As the Celtics defense tightened, the Rockets felt the pressure. Gone was the ball movement and attacking style that had defined their game to that point, replaced by crazy, defended shots with almost no time on the shot clock. Two times in the fourth quarter, time ran out on the Rockets resulting in shot clock violations.
Meanwhile, the Celtics stormed back with a 14-2 run to take a two point advantage and almost sealed the game in regulation, except Rajon Rondo, who didn't score after a nine-point first quarter, whiffed on a breakaway layup with 13 seconds left that would have sealed the game. As Rondo went up for the layup, the ball began to squirt out of his hands, and his attempt to put the ball on the glass went awry and missed.
The Rockets used that second life to get a clutch long two pointer for Dragic and the game went into overtime after Ray Allen missed a good look as time expired. In overtime, only Lowry showed any life for Houston, scoring six points in the extra frame, as the Celtics stars closed the game out.
Pierce, Garnett and Allen scored a combined 21 points in the first half, a half that still surprisingly found them ahead by six. But as the game tightened, the vets rose to the occasion, scoring 43 in the second half and overtime. The Big Three were led by Pierce, who scored 30, willing himself to the free throw line for nine free throws in the game's final 14 minutes. The Celtics won despite being completely dominated on the boards, 57-38 and grabbing only four offensive rebounds for the game.