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Celtics visit Houston to take on James Harden and the Rockets

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The Boston Celtics continue their 3 game road trip with their only stop in Houston to take on James Harden and the Houston Rockets.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

at
Boston Celtics (12-8) at Houston Rockets (13-7)
Monday, December 5, 2016
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #21, Road Game #12
TV: NBA-TV, CSN-NE, ROOT
Radio: WZLX 107.5, 790 AM KBME
Toyota Center

Referees: Marc Davis, Courtney Kirkland, Scott Twardoski


The Celtics continue their 3 game road trip with their only stop in Houston to take on the Rockets. Both teams are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 7-4 on the road while the Rockets are 4-2 at home. These two teams were tied 1-1 last season with each team winning on the road.

The Rockets are hot right now, returning home from a 4-1 road trip which began with back to back wins in Sacramento and Portland followed by a loss to the Jazz and finishing with back to back wins over the Warriors and Nuggets. The Celtics have won 8 of their last 10 and are beginning a stretch in which 8 out of 10 games will be played on the road.

The Celtics are reporting no injuries but Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey have been assigned to the Maine Red Claws. Nene sat out Friday's win over the Nuggets and will be a game time decision for this game. Trevor Ariza sat out Sunday's practice with back spasms and is also a game time decision for this game. If Ariza can't start, Corey Brewer and Sam Dekker should see an increase in their playing time. Chinanu Onuaku and Kyle Wiltjer are both assigned to the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Patrick Beverley

Shooting Guard
vs
Avery Bradley vs James Harden

Small Forward

vs
Jae Crowder vs Trevor Ariza

Power Forward

vs
Al Horford vs Ryan Anderson

Center

vs
Amir Johnson vs Clint Capela

Reserves
Celtics Reserves
Jaylen Brown
Gerald Green
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jonas Jerebko
Tyler Zeller
Marcus Smart
Kelly Olynyk

Injuries

None

D-League

Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Reserves
Eric Gordon
Corey Brewer
Bobby Brown
Sam Dekker
Tyler Ennis
Montrezl Harnell
KJ McDaniels
Nene

Injuries
Nene (knee) game time decision
Trevor Ariza (back) game time decision

D-League
Chinanu Onuaku
Kyle Wiltjer

Head Coach

Mike D'Antoni

Key Matchups
vs
Avery Bradley vs James Harden
James Harden is averaging 28.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 11.8 assists and 1.3 steals. It will be up to Avery Bradley to slow Harden down. Harden is also not known for playing great defense and so the Celtics may be able to take advantage of that if Bradley, Smart and Thomas can get hot.

vs
Marcus Smart vs Eric Gordon
This will be a battle of 6th men. Eric Gordon is averaging 16.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists off the bench. He is also shooting 40% from beyond the arc. Smart will need to slow him down while adding some offense of his own for the Celtics.

Honorable Mention
Al Horford vs Ryan Anderson
Anderson is averaging 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds and is also shooting 43% from beyond the arc. Horford will need to stick with him on defense, especially on the perimeter.


Keys to the Game

Defense - Defense is always a key to every game. Defense wins games. The Rockets are 2nd in the league in scoring at 111.4 ppg. The Celtics are 14th and averaging 105.0 ppg. The Celtics defense has slipped this season and they need to get back to making defense a priority. The Celtics need to play tough team defense and limit the Rockets' scoring if they expect to get a win in this game.

Rebound - In order to score, the Celtics need the ball and to get the ball, they will need to crash the boards as a team. They can't allow the Rockets to own the boards, which will limit the Celtics fast breaks as well as their second chance points. When the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards, it usually carries over into the rest of their game.

Limit Turnovers - The Celtics are averaging just 12.4 turnovers per game while the Rockets are averaging 16.2 turnovers per game. But the Celtics seem to go through stages in games where they seem to lose focus and turn the ball over time and again. The Rockets will make them pay for each turnover and so they have to take care of the ball.

Energy and Aggressiveness - The Celtics seem to lack the energy and aggressiveness that they showed for much of last season. They have to come out and play hard from start to finish with no let up. They have to be aggressive and they have to play like the team that wants it more.

X-Factors

On the Road - The Celtics are playing the 2nd of a 3 game road trip. They have to focus on the task at hand and not allow the distractions of the road and a hostile crowd to take them out of the game. The Celtics have played well on the road and hopefully that will continue.

Officiating - Officiating, especially on the road, is always an x-factor. Will they call it evenly or favor the home team? Will they let them play or call every ticky tack foul? Will they give Harden preferential treatment as a star? All of these factors can shift a game for one team or the other and with Marc Davis as the lead official, anything can happen. .