The Boston Celtics hit the road to play the Houston Rockets looking for their first win of the season. It’s the second road game in a stretch where Boston plays seven of their first 10 games away from home. Fortunately for the Celtics, the Rockets are a young, rebuilding club. That should have Boston in position to win their first game of the season.
Here’s what we’re watching for on Sunday night:
1. Turnovers - Once again, the Celtics were undone by turnovers in their loss to the Toronto Raptors. Boston threw it away 25 times while getting blown out. That’s not something that can be repeated with an expectation of getting wins.
The Rockets have had some turnover issues as well. Houston has coughed it up 41 times in two games. That’s to be expected from a team playing several young players, including some adapting to new positions.
If the Celtics can take care of the ball, they should be able to generate plenty of good looks against the young Rockets.
2. The Rotation - Jaylen Brown is questionable to play, so that will factor in here. Assuming Brown plays, what sorts of lineups will Ime Udoka go with? Thus far, he’s started two bigs in each game. In the second game, with Al Horford available, Boston played three bigs. Grant Williams was essentially the backup for both Horford and Robert Williams.
That big rotation is generally fine. What didn’t work was Udoka going to an all-bench lineup of Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, Josh Richardson, Payton Pritchard and Dennis Schroder. That group got hammered on the glass and was too small defensively.
One other note: Udoka seems to want to play a rotation featuring 9-10 players. That’s going to leave someone out of the mix. In the second game, that was Aaron Nesmith.
Houston has played two big lineups a lot in their first two games. Look for an adjustment from Udoka, especially on the second unit, as the Celtics won’t want to give the Rockets easy second-chance opportunities. Because Houston plays a traditional big off the bench in Alperen Sengun, this could be a good spot for Enes Kanter to get some minutes.
3. Rebounding - Against New York, Boston more than held their own on the boards. The Raptors then dominated the glass with 21 offensive rebounds. In their first two games, the Rockets have grabbed 22 total offensive boards. Like Toronto, Houston has good athletes and pretty good size across the board.
The Celtics are going to be smaller up front than a lot of teams, especially when Grant Williams is in the game. But Boston has big wings, and their guards are fairly adept on the glass. Gang-rebounding is the key. Against a big and athletic Rockets group, all five Celtics have to go to the boards.