The Celtics continue their home stand as they host the Houston Rockets. To say that the Rockets are struggling this season would be an understatement. They are on a 14 game losing streak that began with a 107-97 loss to the Celtics in Houston on October 24. This is the kind of game that the Celtics probably would have dropped last year but hopefully this season, they will take every game seriously and will win the games they should. And, this is a game they should win.
The Celtics are 7th in the East and have won their last 2 games. They are 7-10 in their last 10 games and 4-3 at home. They are 3-1 against Western Conference teams. The Rockets are 15th in the West and have lost their last 14 games. They are 0-10 in their last 10 games and are 0-10 on the road. They are 0-3 against Eastern Conference teams. The Rockets’ only win this season came against the Thunder in their second game of the season.
The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. The Celtics are playing in the 3rd game of a 4 game home stand, having won their first two games in this home stand. The Rockets are playing in the 4th and final game of a 4 game road trip. Often the final game of a road trip is the toughest. The Celtics are 93-55 all time against the Rockets and are 46-21 when playing in Boston.
Jaylen Brown has missed the Celtics last 8 games with a sore hamstring. He has been upgraded to available for this game. Robert Williams has missed the last 3 games with soreness in his knee and is probable for this game. Final playing status will be a game time decision. The Celtics have been playing well, even with Jaylen and Timelord out. It will be interesting to see how their return affects the chemistry and play of the team.
Romeo Langford left Saturday’s game with an ankle injury. He is listed as available for this game. Dennis Schroder has been on the injury list for the past 3 games with an ankle sprain but he has played in every one. He is probable for this game as well. Josh Richardson is a late addition to the list as questionable with a non-covid illness.
For the Rockets, Kevin Porter, Jr is questionable with a thigh bruise. If he can play, he will likely move back into the starting lineup at shooting guard. John Wall has been out since the start of the season and he remains out while the Rockets try to find a team that would want to trade for him.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) available
Robert Williams III (knee) probable
Romeo Langford (ankle) available
Dennis Schroder (ankle) probable
Josh Richardson (non-covid illness) questionable
Probable Rockets Starters
Danuel House, Jr
John Wall (not injury related) out
Kevin Porter, Jr. (thigh) questionable
Two Way Players
Al Horford vs Christian Wood
Christian Wood has been playing well for the Rockets. He is averaging 16.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. He is shooting 44.7% from the field and 31.6% from beyond the arc. In the first meeting between these two teams, he had 20 points and 9 rebounds.
Marcus Smart vs Jalen Green
Jalen Green is averaging 14.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. He is shooting 37.9% from the field and 28.4% from beyond the arc. In his first game against the Celtics, the Rockets’ rookie put up 30 points. The Celtics need to do a better job of guarding him in this game.
Jaylen Brown vs Eric Gordon
Jaylen Brown has been upgraded to probable for this game and hopefully we will see him return. If he is unable to play, then Dennis Schroder will continue to start in his place. Eric Gordon is averaging 13.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. He is shooting 45.9% from the field and 43.1% from beyond the arc. If Kevin Porter is able to return for this game, then he will likely get the start here.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. Players struggle on offense in some games, but they can always play defense. The Rockets are averaging only 100.8 points per game (28th). The Celtics are averaging 108.3 points per game (13th). The Rockets are 19th with a defensive rating of 108.5 while the Celtics are 12th with a defensive rating of 105.4. The Celtics especially need to defend the paint as the Rockets are 5th with 48.5 points in the paint per 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. The Celtics average 46.2 rebounds per game while the Rockets average 45.6 rebounds per game. Much of rebounding is effort and when the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards, it usually carries over into the rest of their game. The Celtics must come into the game determined to put out extra effort and to hustle for every rebound.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to continue to be aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and not settling for 3 pointers on every possession. They also have to be aggressive in hustling for rebounds and for loose balls. And they have to be aggressive on defense. They have to play harder than the Rockets and play like the team that wants this game more.
No Let Up - The Celtics have to come out right from the start and play hard. They need to play hard whether they have a lead or are behind. The bench needs to come in and play hard as well. The Rockets have lost 14 games in a row and they will be desperate for a win. If the Celtics let up in the least, the Rockets could make a run and squeak out a win.
Underestimation - In the past, the Celtics have had a habit of underestimating teams that are short handed or who have sub-.500 records. Even bad teams are motivated to play their best against the Celtics and if the Celtics don’t match their effort and energy, they are likely to lose a game they should have easily won. Especially after beating the Rockets in their first meeting, the Celtics need to come into this game expecting to get the Rockets best and respond with their best game.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. Some referees call the game tight and others let them play. Some favor the home team and others call it evenly. At times the Celtics have spent more time complaining to the refs than they have playing good basketball. The Celtics have to play through whatever calls go against them and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus on the game.