The Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics played with one fewer set of watchful eyes on the court, and according to James Harden, it affected his and his team’s performances as they blew a 26-point lead.
Referee Mark Lindsay injured his back before the game, leaving just two officials to monitor two of the most notorious floppers in the game: Harden and Celtics defensive bully Marcus Smart.
The Rockets, playing without an injured Chris Paul, put as many as 26 points between themselves and the Celtics in the second half. But some stifling defense on Harden sparked a furious Boston comeback, culminating in a pair of Harden offensive fouls—both against Smart, who, in classic Smart fashion, did his best to sell them—in crunch time to help the Celts to a 99-98 win.
The final wild seconds of the Rockets meltdown against the Celtics.
– Offensive foul by James Harden with 7.3 seconds left
– Game winning shot by Al Horford with 3.7 seconds left
– Another offensive foul by Harden with 3.7 seconds left pic.twitter.com/QLpNGxE5C2
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 29, 2017
Harden shot 3-of-17 in the second half, and was 0-of-7 with four turnovers when guarded by Smart.
Still, Harden directed his frustration at the officiating crew following the comeback defeat.
“Well, first of all, I’m wondering how do you only have two officials on a national TV game? That’s the first question,” Harden said. “… A lot of grabbing, a lot of holding. I mean, how else am I supposed to get open? Gotta ask, with two arms wrapped around my whole body. … But like I said, it’s just tough. You can’t have two officials in a professional game. There’s a lot of no-calls that need to be called, because that changes the dynamic of the game.”
Smart’s getting under Harden’s skin in the clutch is nothing new.
Lmao Marcus Smart really owns James Harden late in games. pic.twitter.com/lNQkCYVPgI
— She aint even know it (@Celtics_Rise) December 29, 2017
“If that’s what we want to call it, I probably did (get under Harden’s skin),” Smart said. “I guess you could say [I’m good at it]. My mom might say that.”