Houston Rockets (37-37) @ Boston Celtics (47-27)
Time: Friday, April 2nd, 7:30PM EDT
Venue: Da' Garden
TV: CSN-NE, FSN-HOU Radio: WEEI
The Line: The Rockets are 16-20 on the road, the Celtics are on game 8 what is being called
by some as "the most epic 9-Game stretch in the era of written history" in which over 17
days 8 of the 9 teams played are probable playoff teams, and 5 are legit contenders.
For the two teams, their seasons kind of turned on the same day. March 19th.
On March 19th, the Houston Rockets were coming off their first and only four game winning streak of the season. They were 35 and 31 walking into that game and just barely on the outside looking in with regards to the Western Playoff picture. It was to say the least an optimistic time in Houston. A happier time. Since then, Houston has dropped six of eight games, with the two wins coming against the lowly Knicks and Bullets. Also, there are unverified reports in Houston of the city being overrun by frogs, being pounded by sleet and hail, and the death of livestock. (eh? Little passover humor?) .
The Celtics though have fared better. Although the boys in green have only gone 4-3 in that time, they've had some of the most important wins of the season, with home W's over Denver and Dallas. This team might not be playing like world beaters every night, but they're definitely playing better at home than they were earlier in the season.
According to Hollinger's playoff odds/weather calculator, Houston is out of contention for the 8th spot, and next week it will snow in Montana. However, I don't think that will stop a team that has worked its butt off all season from bringing a good fight to the table tonight. Momma Morey didn't draft no fools, and the Rockets know that this season was a building block, not a cornerstone. They also know that the reason they play for the Rockets is because they play hard every night, so energy won't be an issue.The only issue will be if our boys want to continue their slow climb up in terms of league wide respectability and take this game as seriously as they should. I think they will.
Probable Starting Lineups:
Injuries and Stuff: Marcus Landry (D-League)
Injuries and Stuff: Yao Ming (OUT like Hammer Pants), Shane Battier (OUT) Jared Jeffries (OUT) David "You think that's a knife? THIS is a knife!" Andersen (OUT), Kevin Martin (QUESTIONABLE, BUT PROBABLY OUT)
Matchup Of the Game: Luis Scola V Kevin Garnett
Luis Scola is one of the most underrated power forwards in the league. He's got a nice post game, he rebounds well, and he hustles like Andersen Varejao. Even this all considered, he is no match for a healthy Kevin Garnett. The questions I have (again) after last game is just how healthy IS Kevin Garnett? Scola can do some damage if you let him be assertive, and while guys like Brooks will probably get their points regardless, limiting Scola should be the goal of this game.
Three Keys To the Game For The Good Guys:
1) Go inside for the ENTIRE first half: The Rockets literally do not have the bodies to compete. If either Scola or Hayes go out, the Rockets have to use unproven but eager Jordan Hill or Hilton "I bet you forgot I still played" Armstrong. Sure, Pierce vs Ariza would be an interesting dynamic of offense vs defense, and Rondo vs Brooks would be a good demonstration of speed vs well...speed. But who cares? Kevin Garnett meeting Jordan Hill should be a good demonstration of Lawnmower meeting grass.
2) Don't (I know, I know, I always say this) look past the present to think about the future: One, isn't this a fantastic saying? I'm 90% sure I made it up. Two, the Celtics have been guilty of this before. They take a game that should end up a massacre or at the least a layup win, which with the Rockets' depleted roster this falls into that catagory, but they look past the easy games to focus on the ones they feel they should really care about, ie the Magic, Cavs, and Lakers. The Cavaliers are up next. Lets hope the Celtics won't think too much about that.
3) Eat Some Hot Cross Buns: This has nothing to do with the game, but if your childhood was like mine, you understand. Hot cross buns are awesome, and they are only made on Good Friday.