When the Boston Celtics play the Houston Rockets on Monday night, all eyes will be on a relatively full-strength roster for Boston for the first time in a while.
It’s also a game the Celtics should be expecting to win. The Rockets come in as losers of 14-straight games. Here’s what we’re watching for:
1. Jaylen Brown’s return: Brown has been upgraded to available to play against Houston. That’s great news for Boston. The Celtics offense has struggled at times with Brown out. Droughts have been common, especially at points in the game where Jayson Tatum and Dennis Schroder sit.
With Brown back in the lineup, Ime Udoka has previously said he’d return Schroder to his sixth man role. It’s also fair to expect Udoka to stagger Brown and Tatum’s minutes somewhat. Between those two and Schroder, Boston should always have an offensive engine on the floor to drive the team.
2. Style of play: There are only two things the Rockets do well. They play at the NBA’s fastest pace and they draw a lot of free throws. Beyond that, everything else is bottom-10 in the league, including turnovers where they are last in both volume and rate.
The Celtics have to play their game. They can’t get caught reaching, because Houston will get themselves to the line. And Boston probably doesn’t want to get caught up in a track meet either. If the Celtics take care of the ball themselves and play sound, fundamental defense, they’ll come away with a win.
3. Can Boston blow out a bad team? The Celtics have a few blowout victories. They handled the Los Angeles Lakers with ease on Friday, and it looked like the same fate was in store for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then OKC made a run and the game tightened up at the end.
The Rockets are a bad team. The worst team in the NBA right now. If the Celtics are focused, this a game they should win going away. That’s important, because it’s the third game in four nights. With the injuries, the main players have had to carry a heavier minutes-load than anyone wants this early in the season. This is a great opportunity to blow out a bad and get the deeper reserves plenty of playing time.