HOUSTON (AP)Jalen Green scored 28 points and rookie Jabari Smith Jr. added 24 as the Houston Rockets withstood a late charge to beat the Boston Celtics 111-109 on Monday night.
The Rockets, who are tied with Detroit for the NBA’s fewest wins with 16, snapped a three-game skid despite allowing the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown to score a season-high 43 points.
“My biggest thing that we were saying was we need to stay together, calm down, slow down, stay under control,” Green said. “So I think we did that and it paid off.”
Boston, which is second in the Eastern Conference, trailed by 11 with about 4 1/2 minutes to go before using a late run to get within striking distance. Brown made two free throws to cut Houston’s lead to one with less than a minute left.
Kenyon Martin Jr. missed a 3-point attempt after that but grabbed his own rebound. Green was fouled with 10 seconds to go and made both free throws.
Brown made a layup to get Boston within one again. Smith then made one of two free throws. The Celtics had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but Jayson Tatum missed a layup.
“I thought it was a good, well-executed play,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Just couldn’t make a tough layup.”
Rockets coach Stephen Silas said his young team showed progress after some recent losses in which it let things get away late.
“We’re a work in progress, but when we understand the moment, it’s gratifying as a coach for sure,” he said. “We’re constantly teaching them, but they need to feel it. And as much as we can watch film and as much as we can talk about it … there’s no better teaching method than going through it and finding some success at the end of it.”
Tatum scored 22 points for Boston and Malcolm Brogdon added 20.
Martin had 20 points and eight rebounds for Houston and Kevin Porter Jr. had 14 points and 13 assists.
The Celtics made four free throws before getting a three-point play from Brogdon to get within two with less than two minutes remaining. Jae’Sean Tate fouled Marcus Smart on the free throw by Brogdon and Smart made a free throw to cut the lead to 106-105.
A layup by Sam Hauser after a steal by Brogdon got the Celtics within a basket early in the fourth quarter. But the Rockets got consecutive 3s from Usman Garuba to start a 9-2 run that extended their advantage to 98-89 with about seven minutes to go.
The Rockets led by seven at halftime and used a 7-0 run to make it 71-58 with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the third. Later in the period, Boston cut the lead to 75-68 thanks to an 8-2 spurt in which Tatum scored all the Celtics’ points.
Celtics: Robert Williams was out for a fifth straight game with a strained left hamstring. … Payton Pritchard was inactive for a third consecutive game with left heel pain. … Boston made 12 of 42 3-pointers.
Rockets: Porter hobbled off the court in the fourth quarter but returned a couple minutes later. … Alperen Sengun missed the game with a left groin strain. Silas said the injury wasn’t serious and he expects Sengun to return for the next game. … Houston outrebounded Boston 48-38.
Smith, who was the third overall pick in the 2022 draft, has scored at least 20 points in three straight games after doing so just seven times in his first 62 games.
“He’s going crazy right now,” Green said. “He’s in that mode. I’m happy for him because we know the real Jabari and he’s showing it right now to everybody, everyone who doubted him.”
Celtics: Continue a six-game trip with a visit to Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Rockets: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.
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