Boston Celtics (1-0) vs. Houston Rockets (2-0)
Saturday, November 1, 2014, 8:00PM ET
Regular Season Game 2
TV: CSNHD (in both Boston and Houston), NBALP (elsewhere)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
Location: Toyota Center (Houston, Texas)
The Celtics head to Houston tonight to try to remain undefeated against the 2-0 Rockets. For this game, I am going to do the preview a little bit differently and discuss how the Celtics match up with the Rockets at each position.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Patrick Beverley
I really did not expect Rondo to look as good in the first game as he did. He put up a very efficient near triple double (13-12-7), and I could see him playing more minutes in a more competitive game. While Beverley is a phenomenal perimeter defender, there is a reason Houston fans would like to see Rondo as their starting point guard. This is one of the only positions where the Celtics have a clear advantage.
Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley vs. James Harden
While I appreciate the across the board improvement that Avery Bradley has made, I just can't give him the advantage in this matchup. Harden is a far more talented player, and he is one of the best scorers in the entire NBA. That being said, I'm hoping Avery can take advantage of Harden's horrible defense for a few backdoor cuts and open three pointers to offset the talent deficiency.
Small Forward: Jeff Green vs. Trevor Ariza
I know Trevor Ariza had one of his best statistical season's last year, but I'm still not buying that he is a better player than Jeff Green. Green is far more athletic, and he is also capable of completely dominating a game where he was being guarded by Lebron. Last season Green struggled with consistency, but he wasn't playing with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene, and Gortat. Ariza is a solid 3 and D option for a competitive team. Green is the same type of player, but he also has the ability to attack in transition as well as throw down a thunderous dunk to energize the team. This is probably one of the closest match ups, but I would take Green over Ariza in this matchup.
Power Forward: Kelly Olynyk vs. Terrance Jones
Yes, Kelly Olynyk is listed as the starting center for the Boston Celtics. However, after watching several preseason games and the first regular season matchup, he doesn't defend the opposing teams center very often. Therefore, I am assuming that we will leave the Dwight-guarding duties to Jared Sullinger. That being said, it is hard to say who has the definite advantage in this matchup. Olynyk is a better shooter, passer, and rebounder than Jones on a per minute basis (and that was as a rookie). However, Jones is definitely more athletic, and Jones is a far superior defender (although Olynyk seems to be getting better and better and being in the right spots at the right time). Therefore, since Olynyk clearly takes the cake overall offensively and Jones is much better defensively, I think I would call this matchup a draw.
Center: Jared Sullinger vs. Dwight Howard
I think this will be an intriguing matchup since Sullinger will be taking Dwight out of the lane with his three point shot. Sullinger will also battle hard for rebounds, and he may be able to use his lower body strength to keep Dwight from dominating us on the boards. All of that being said, Dwight Howard is arguably the best center in the NBA when healthy. Jared Sullinger is not. This is one of the match ups where we were beaten by a landslide. This is not a knock on Jared Sullinger because I think he has the potential to be a star power forward in the next few years. Unfortunately, he plays on a team that really needs him to guard big centers, and that just doesn't really play to his strengths.
Sixth Man: Marcus Smart vs. Jason Terry
This matchup shouldn't be close. Jason Terry is a shadow of his former self, and Marcus Smart is one of the most ferocious competitors I have ever seen take the floor. If this matchup ends up coming to fruition, I expect Smart to use and abuse our former Jet. I expect a few incredible defensive plays by Marcus Smart ending up with a few wide open layups on the other end. Hopefully after this happens, his puts both of his arms straight out, and he takes off down the floor like a plane. Smart embarrassed Deron Williams several times in our first game. If he spends a lot of time matched up with Terry, I expect him to do a lot of the same.
Celtics: Brandon Bass, Evan Turner, Marcus Thornton, Tyler Zeller
Rockets: Isaiah Canaan, Donatas Motiejunas, Tarik Black, Kostas Papanikolaou
The Celtics looked especially deep in their first game. Almost all of the guys that came off of the bench produced in a positive fashion. On the other hand, the Rockets seemingly traded away their entire bench (which included Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik) in order to make a run at Chris Bosh. I think the Celtics bench has a clear advantage here, but I know the Rockets tend to play their starters for a ton of minutes. Therefore, while I think we have a definite advantage here, I do not think it will have much of an impact on the game.
I know from reading the matchup "advantages" from above, just from simple addition you would assume I think the Celtics win the game tonight. However, that is not necessarily the case. While we do present matchup advantages at certain positions, it is the match ups at shooting guard and center where the advantages are most glaring. In the NBA, talent usually trumps all. The Rockets have arguably the best shooting guard in the game and the best center in the game on their roster (you may not think so, but people could certainly argue that point). Also, it is really hard for me to know just how good the Celtics are based on one game against the lowly Brooklyn Nets. It breaks my heart, but I predict a high scoring game and a close matchup. The Celtics have to make shots down the stretch, and they are unable to (hopefully that changes from last year).
Outcome: Celtics lose 109-115