AL Horford scored the game-winner in between two pivotal offensive fouls late on James Harden as the Boston Celtics completed a furious rally to stun the slumping Houston Rockets, 99-98, on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).
The Rockets came out blazing with a 12-0 start before James Harden and Eric Gordon combined to almost outscore the Celtics by themselves in the first half to give Houston a 62-38 lead at the break.
But Kyrie Irving came alive in the third quarter, leading a 20-4 run that reduced a 26-point gap to nine after three periods, 78-69.
The Celtics reserves, led by Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier, stepped up to bring them closer, 87-86, with a little over five minutes to play. The Rockets stopped the bleeding momentarily with Harden hitting a triple, yet the home team kept fighting, trading baskets to keep the game close down to stretch.
Irving had a chance to tie the game, but missed one of two free throws, before Harden hit a step-back three to push back the lead to four. Still, another Irving layup cut the gap to two with 1:40 left.
After Marcus Smart missed an open triple to take the lead, Irving turned the ball over on the other end but a split at the stripe by PJ Tucker left some hope for the Celtics. Smart atoned with a quick two, but Harden countered with two more free throws.
The Celtics, though, got a break after Jayson Tatum scored on a slam and Harden got called for a charge in the inbound play. Al Horford then hit the go-ahead basket with three seconds to play.
Another charge on Harden led to the Rockets fouling Horford, who missed both attempts at the line but with Houston out of timeouts, the Celtics completed the stunning comeback.
Irving led Boston (29-10), winners of two straight games, with 26 points, while Tatum added 19 markers. Smart and Rozier each scored 13 while Horford chipped in nine.
Harden had a game-high 34 points for the Rockets, who have lost four straight to fall to 25-8. Gordon added 24 markers.