Brown (39 pts), Tatum (38) lead Celtics past Rockets 126-102
BOSTON (AP) — Acting interim Boston Celtics coach Damon Stoudamire had the perfect plan for his debut in the top job.
“It’s always a little easier when you’ve got JT and JB,” Stoudamire said after Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 77 points to lead the Celtics to a 126-102 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. “It’s not a bad start.”
Brown scored 14 of his 39 points in the third quarter, pouring it on after he was knocked to the parquet by a flagrant foul.
“Sometimes you get a smack in the face, it’s exactly what you need in the middle of a game,” Brown said. “Like, ‘Jaylen, what the hell are you doing?’ Smack in the face, then proceed to score the ball.”
Tatum added 38 points and eight rebounds, and Stoudamire earned a victory in his first game as a head coach after interim coach Joe Mazzulla pulled out 10 minutes before tipoff with an eye problem.
“I found out probably with about 10 on the (pregame) clock. But in a lot of ways that’s better,” said Stoudamire, whose mother was in town from Las Vegas for Christmas and happened to be at the game. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to check my phone and there’s going to be a lot of people saying ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ Well, I didn’t know.”
Robert Williams III grabbed 15 rebounds to go with his 11 points as Boston won its third game in a row. According to Stathead, Brown and Tatum are the first Celtics teammates to score at least 38 points in a game since Larry Bird (48) and Robert Parish (38) in 1985.
“You’ve just got to sit back and enjoy the show, and whenever they need you to step in you fill that role,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “But they didn’t need it tonight.”
Jalen Green scored 28 and Kevin Porter Jr. had 22 points and nine assists for the Rockets, who snapped a five-game losing streak in Chicago on Monday.
Boston led 65-62 midway through the third quarter when Brown got the ball to the left of the basket and Porter came across the top of him with an excessively emphatic shot block that sent the ball flying into Brown’s face. The Celtics All-Star went to the ground, and Porter apologetically came over to check on him.
The play was ruled a flagrant foul; Brown hit both free throws to make it 67-62, scoring 12 points in the next four minutes to help Boston open a double-digit lead.
Mazzulla was elevated to interim coach on the eve of training camp when head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the full season for inappropriate workplace behavior. Mazzulla handled his interview on the pregame show, but was clearly uncomfortable. The team announced Stoudamire would sub for him about 10 minutes before the opening tipoff.
The Celtics observed a moment of silence for Paul Silas, a former Boston player and the father of Rockets coach Stephen Silas, who died this month at the age of 79.
“It meant a lot,” said Stephen Silas, who wasn’t on the court at the time but had been sent a copy. “That just a classy, classy, classy act.”
Paul Silas played for the Celtics from 1972-76, winning two NBA titles; he won another with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979. He was a two-time All-Star and a five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive team.
“They didn’t have to do any of this,” Stephen Silas said. “It wasn’t like he was here 15 of his 16 years or anything. The love that they showed him with the pins and the moment of silence ... just means everything to my family.”
The replay center was busy at the end of the third quarter, reviewing both the buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Green and the putback by Williams that preceded it. Williams dunked it as the shot clock expired; it was ruled no basket but overturned. That left the score at the end of three 92-81, Boston.
Rockets: Play in Dallas on Thursday night to complete a three-game, four-night road trip.
Celtics: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports