Late lapses sink Celtics

HOUSTON — ­Now the Celtics and Rockets both know what it’s like to lose a late lead to the other.

After coming back from 26 down (12 behind in the fourth quarter) to beat the Rockets in the Garden in December, the Celtics were outscored 16-7 in the last three minutes last night to suffer a 123-120 loss, thus becoming Houston’s 15th straight victim. The C’s lost for the first time after four wins since All-Star break.

As the players had all said leading into the nationally televised affair, this wasn’t a playoff game. It did not, however, lack for playoff-type intensity — right down to a desperation fallaway trey from the left sideline by Marcus Smart that caught only iron at the buzzer.

“I just thought they maximized more possessions than we did,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “But those were two good teams playing, and both teams deserve a lot of credit for how they played.”

Said Kyrie Irving, “I think just the flow of the game changed a little bit. They got some 50-50 basketballs. We understand they’re a 3-point shooting team. I just think some of the one-shot possessions we were hoping for we just didn’t get down the stretch that would probably have limited some of their second-chance opportunities, whether it be layups or another 3-point attempt.


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