Celtics rally from 26 down to stun Rockets, 99-98

BOSTON (AP) — Marcus Smart helped complete a furious comeback for Boston on two plays he never touched the ball.

Smart drew an offensive foul on James Harden with 7.3 seconds left, getting the ball back in time for Al Horford to sink a hook shot with 3.7 seconds left, and the Celtics rallied from a 26-point deficit to beat Houston 99-98 on Thursday night.

“It just shows the value of Marcus Smart to our group and what he does for our team. It all started with him in the second half,” Horford said. “It was just a domino effect. That’s how special he is. And when he plays at that level we’re just a different team.”

After Horford’s shot, Smart did it again when he drew another foul on Harden and the Rockets ran out of time.

Kyrie Irving scored 26 and Jayson Tatum finished with 19 for the Celtics, who held Houston to just nine field goals in the second half while tying the largest comeback in the NBA this season.

“I’ve had a few comebacks, but this is a special one. From just how we started, it was just so ugly,” Irving said. “They came out firing. We just had to battle back. It took a lot. It took everybody.”

Smart and Terry Rozier had 13 points apiece and Horford finished with nine points and eight rebounds.

Tatum made a layup with seven seconds left to pull the Celtics within 98-97, then Smart had position on Harden for an offensive foul that gave Boston the ball. Horford converted from the lane to put Boston up for the first time in a game Houston had led throughout and dominated until midway through the third quarter.

Harden finished with 34 points and 10 assists. Eric Gordon scored 24 points for Houston, which shot 25 percent in the second half and lost its fourth straight.

“It was the tale of two halves,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We were kind of like them in the first half and they were like us in the second.”

The Rockets had one last chance after Horford’s go-ahead hook shot, but Harden was called for another offensive foul and time expired after Horford missed his second free throw.

Houston opened the game on a 12-0 run and led 62-38 at halftime. After committing six turnovers in the first half, Houston had seven in the third quarter and Boston capitalized by outscoring the Rockets 31-16. Irving scored 12 in the third quarter as Boston picked up its defense, holding Houston to just four field goals in the period.

Boston got within a point a couple times in the fourth, but couldn’t quite catch the Rockets until the final seconds.

After Smart drove for a layup and pulled Boston within 96-95 with 13.5 seconds left, Harden drew a foul and made both free throws to put the lead back at three. Rather than going for the 3-pointer, Boston went to Tatum for another layup, then Smart took an offensive foul by Harden on the inbounds play.

“You know they were going to deny the ball and we knew that,” Gordon said. “We always have all the guards try to go after the ball, but it’s just tough to play basketball toward the end of the game like that when things are going the other way.”

Houston’s lead was in the 20s for nearly all of the second quarter and much of the third before Boston pulled back within range on a 12-0 run.

∫ TIP-INS: Rockets: Veteran swingman Gerald Green, who signed a free-agent deal with the Rockets earlier Thursday, finished with two rebounds and no points in 11 minutes. … The Rockets’ 62 points in the first half were the most scored on the Celtics in the first two periods of a game this season. … Houston point guard Chris Paul missed his third straight game with a groin strain and the Rockets fell to 10-7 without him. … The Rockets were also without center Clint Capela, who has a right orbital fracture.

Celtics: Were just 5 of 19 in the first quarter while scoring 12 points, the second-lowest total for a quarter by the Celtics this season. … Boston committed eight turnovers in the first quarter.

∫ 2-MAN CREW: Referee Mark Lindsay missed the game with a sore back, leaving Tony Brothers and Gediminas Petraitis to officiate the game on their own.

There were plenty of disputed calls throughout, including one that got Boston coach Brad Stevens and Marcus Morris technicals with 1:56 left in the third.

Harden was the most vocal about the officials being down a man for the entire game.

“You can’t have two officials in a professional game,” Harden said. “There was a lot of no-calls that needed to be called because it changed the dynamic of the game. You got fast-break points, no calls, turnovers or whatever the case may be. This is a professional game on national TV. It can’t happen.”

Bucks 102, Timberwolves 96

MILWAUKEE — Eric Bledsoe scored 26 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 22 to help Milwaukee rally from a 20-point deficit and beat Minnesota.

Bledsoe had six points and made two key assists down the stretch and the Bucks found their missing defense, holding the Timberwolves to a season-low 12 points in the fourth quarter. Minnesota went cold over the last 4:21 and had its five-game winning streak snapped.

Bledsoe took a pass from Antetokounmpo and made an open 3-pointer from the corner to give the Bucks their first lead of the game at 95-93 with 2:25 to go. Bledsoe followed with a three-point play and then found Antetokounmpo under the basket for an easy two points, pushing the lead to 100-93 with 1:04 left.

Minnesota perhaps wore down a night after a 128-125 overtime victory over Denver and had a four-game road winning streak snapped.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 22 points for Minnesota and Andrew Wiggins added 21.

Spurs 119, Knicks 107

SAN ANTONIO — LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and every San Antonio starter scored in double figures to beat New York.

Pau Gasol added 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for San Antonio.

The Spurs improved to 17-2 at home while winning their third straight overall.

The Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard and lost Rudy Gay to a foot injury only two nights after playing with a full roster for the first time all season. Leonard sat out for rest. Gay exited the game late in the third quarter with a sore right heel.

Kyle Anderson had 16 points and eight rebounds starting in place of Leonard. Tony Parker scored 14 points, including 10 in the first quarter as San Antonio bolted to an early lead.

Reserve forward Michael Beasley led New York with 23 points. Courtney Lee and Kristaps Porzingis had 18 points apiece, but Porzingis fouled out late in the fourth.

Magic 102, Pistons 89

ORLANDO, Fla. — Elfrid Payton had 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to help Orlando break a nine-game losing streak.

Evan Fournier scored 17 points and Aaron Gordon had 14 for Orlando, but it was the Magic’s backup centers who made the difference in the game.

Bismack Biyombo had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Marresse Speights scored 16 points as replacements for injured starter Nikola Vucevic.

Tobias Harris scored 21 points for Detroit, which had won five of six. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 18 rebounds, and Ish Smith contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Trail Blazers 114, 76ers 110

PORTLAND, Ore. — Shabazz Napier, who started for injured guard Damian Lillard, scored 15 of his season-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and Portland rallied to beat Philadelphia.

CJ McCollum led all scorers with 34 for the Blazers, who snapped a six-game losing streak at home. Portland had a season-high 42 points in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers, who led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, have lost 10 of their last 12 games.

Joel Embiid finished with 29 points and nine rebounds, while Dario Saric had 25 points and nine rebounds.