Russell Westbrook delivered a game-high 41 points as the Houston Rockets defeated Boston 111-110 in overtime to cap a season sweep of the Celtics on Saturday.
James Harden, who made just seven of 31 baskets and had five turnovers, gained a small measure of redemption from his poor shooting night by making two late free throws in the win.
Harden’s free throws gave Houston the lead and then Rockets defence took over forcing Boston’s Jaylen Brown to miss his late shot to clinch the victory.
Harden finished with 21 points after being double teamed most of the night. Robert Covington had a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds for Houston, who won their sixth straight.
“We had a lot of attention on James Harden,” Celtics guard Brown said. “We forgot about the other MVP over there.”
Jayson Tatum finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds, and Brown added 22 points for the Celtics. Marcus Smart scored 26 points and Daniel Theis tallied 15 rebounds and three blocks in the loss.
Brown hit the buzzer-beating three-pointer that forced overtime. He grabbed a loose ball after Tatum missed two free throws with five seconds left and Boston trailing 104-101.
“I thought the right team won,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought they were better than us – not by much, but at least by one.”
Elsewhere, the Memphis Grizzlies, clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA Western Conference, snapped a five-game skid with a 105-88 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
Rookie Ja Morant scored 27 points and tied his season high with 14 assists for the Grizzlies, who led by as many as 22 points in the third quarter.
The victory in Memphis snapped the West-leading Lakers’ seven-game winning streak. The Grizzlies out-rebounded the Lakers 51-45 and harried Los Angeles into 16 turnovers leading to 22 Memphis points.
“They came out and played with a sense of desperation,” Lakers star Anthony Davis said. “They wanted it more than us tonight, and it showed.”
Dillon Brooks scored 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 22 points and 20 rebounds for the Grizzlies.
LeBron James scored 19 points and Davis added 15 with nine rebounds.
The Lakers sliced the deficit to nine points with less than seven minutes remaining, but the Grizzlies pushed the lead back to 18 and Lakers coach Frank Vogel emptied his bench for the waning minutes.
“We knew they were going to play with desperation,” Vogel said. “They’re currently the eighth seed in the playoffs and they lost five straight.
“Our guys have done a great job throughout most of the year playing with energy and matching the energy of the home team – we just fell short with that tonight.”
The Grizzlies went into the night two games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Davis said the Lakers’ road trip won’t get any easier when they arrive at New Orleans on Sunday.
“Tomorrow we’re going into another arena where a team is fighting for the same (eighth) spot, so it’s a precursor of what we’re going to see tomorrow,” he said.