Although Houston lost another overtime heartbreaker — their fourth straight loss — to the Boston Celtics Tuesday, at times it felt as if the Celts were trying to hand Rockets Coach Kevin McHale a homecoming present with a gift wrapped victory.
This play essentially sums the game up in a nutshell. Houston never should have been in this position — the Rockets steadily choked away a late 10-point lead — but Boston was up 84-82 with time dwindling, and point guard Rajon Rondo was streaming for a breakaway layup.
But somewhere on the way to the rim, he lost grip of the ball, blew a “fat tire,” according to Rockets announcers, and flubbed the shot terribly; nobody was within range of blocking it. Kyle Lowry snatched the rebound and zipped the ball up court, where it eventually landed in the hands of a corner-dwelling Goran Dragic for a game-tying two with three seconds left. The game went to overtime, where the Celtics held on to win 97-92. The Boston crowd apparently thought the game was over as Rondo rose to the rim, however, and they appeared in a state of shock for some time afterwards at the sight of an NBA player missing a wide-open layup.
Rondo’s mental error was one of the more embarrassing and costly mistakes in recent NBA memory only because the play was so routine and because it came at such a critical moment. He is awfully fortunate Houston lacked the offensive stars to take advantage of the renewed life he gifted them in overtime, because this would have been a difficult miss to live down.