The Celtics are continue their home stand as they host the Houston Rockets. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet for the 2nd time on March 13 in Houston. The Celtics have swept the last two season series between these two teams. This is the 6th game of the Celtics 7 game home stand. They are 2-3 so far in the first 5 games.
The Rockets are playing in the second of back to back games. They beat the Bulls in Chicago on Monday night. This is the second game of a 3 game road trip for them. The Celtics are 94-55 overall all time against the Rockets and they are 47-21 all time in games played in Boston. They had lost 5 straight games before that win.
The Celtics are 1st in the East, 1.5 games ahead of Milwaukee after beating them on Christmas Day. They are 2 games ahead of 3rd place Cleveland. The Celtics are 13-5 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 2 games. The Celtics are 9-2 against Western Conference teams.
The Rockets are 15th and in last place in the West. They are 1 game behind 14th place San Antonio and 3.5 games behind the 13th place Lakers. They are 4-13 on the road and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are looking to win their second straight game. They are 5-6 against Eastern Conference teams.
On Monday night, the Celtics had just Danilo Gallinari out as he continues to rehab a torn ACL. Robert Williams (illness) and Payton Pritchard (thigh) were both added on Tuesday as questionable for this game. For the Rockets, Jae’Sean Tate listed as out with an ankle injury. Eric Gordon is also listed as out for injury maintenance since the Rockets are playing in back to back games. I’m guessing that KJ Martin will replace him in the starting lineup.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (illness) questionable
Payton Pritchard (thigh) questionable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Rockets Starters
Two Way Players
Jae’Sean Tate (ankle) out
Eric Gordon (groin) out
Marcus Smart vs Jalen Green
Jalen Green is averaging 21.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He is shooting 40.9% from the field and 30.7% from beyond the arc. The Rockets second year player is playing very well and is leading them in scoring this season. Green is coming off a 24 point, 6 rebound, 3 assist game against the Bulls. The Celtics need to defend him well to keep him from having a big game.
Derrick White vs Kevin Porter, Jr
Kevin Porter, Jr is averaging 18.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 42.3% from the field and 31.5% from beyond the arc. Derrick White has been playing well for the Celtics and hopefully he continues to do so in this game. Porter is coming off a 36 point, 7 rebound 9 assist game against the Bulls. The Celtics need to slow him down in this game.
Al Horford vs Alperen Sengun
Sengun is averaging 14.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. He is shooting 54.8% from the field but just 17.4% from beyond the arc. Al Horford has played very well for the Celtics, shooting 50.8% from the field and 45.1% from beyond the arc. Al needs to draw him out to the perimeter to limit is rebounding. Sengun is coming off abig game against the Bulls with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks. The Celtics need to prevent him from having another big game in this one.
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 109.4 points per game (28th). The Celtics are averaging 118.7 points per game (1st). The Rockets are 28th with a defensive rating of 115.0 while the Celtics are 7th with a defensive rating of 110.7. The Celtics especially need to defend the paint as the Rockets are 14th with 50.8 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 43.6 rebounds per game (11th) while the Rockets average 46.8 rebounds per game (4th). 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 Rockets are a very good rebounding team and are 1st in the league with 17.4 second chance points per game. The Celtics must come into the game determined to put out extra effort and to hustle for every rebound to limit those 2nd chance points for the Rockets.
Don’t Underestimate - The Celtics are coming off a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks and it would be easy for them to have a let down game against the 10-23 Rockets but they have to come into this game with the same mindset they had approaching the Bucks. They underestimated the Magic and lost to them in spite of their lowly record. The Celtics should not make that mistake again and note that the Rockets just beat the Bulls and so must be taken seriously.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and not settling for 3 pointers on every possession, especially if the 3s aren’t falling. 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. They allowed the Magic and Pacers to play harder than them and lost to those teams they should have beat. They should not make that same mistake in this game.
At Home vs Road Back to Back - The Celtics are at home for the 6th straight game. The Celtics have the crowd behind them and if they give a good effort, win or lose, the fans will cheer them on and help to motivate them. The Rockets had to travel, stay in a hotel, play in front of a hostile crowd and on an unfamiliar court. The Rockets are also playing on the second night of back to back games and fatigue could also be a factor.
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.