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Boston Celtics (47-21) at Houston Rockets (15-52) Game #69 3/13/23

The Celtics look for their 3rd straight win as they continue their road trip with a stop in Houston to take on the Rockets.

Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The Celtics are continue their road trip as they visit the Houston Rockets. This is the second and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 126-102 in Boston on December 27. The Celtics have swept the last two season series between these two teams. This is the 2nd game of the Celtics 6 road trip.

The Celtics are 2nd in the East, 1.5 games behind first place Milwaukee. The Celtics made up one game on the Bucks with their win over the Hawks and the Bucks’ loss to the Warriors. The Celtics are 2 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia. The Celtics are 21-12 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games and are 18-5 against Western Conference opponents. They have won their last 2 games.

The Rockets are 15th in the West, 2.5 games behind 14th place San Antonio. and 6 games behind 13th place Portland. They are half a game ahead of Detroit, who are 15th in the East, for last place in the league. The Rockets are 9-24 at home and 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 6-17 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have lost their last 3 games.

The Rockets are playing in the 2nd game of a 6 game home stand. They lost the first game to Chicago on Saturday. They will face the Lakers, Pelicans twice, and Warriors to close out the home stand. The Celtics are playing in the 2nd of a 6 game road trip. They began the trip with a win in Atlanta on Saturday and will face Minnesota, Portland, Utah, and Sacramento to close out their road trip.

Robert Williams III is expected to miss this game with a hamstring injury. Payton Pritchard is also expected to be out with a heel injury. Danilo Gallinari will remain out as he rehabs from the ACL tear. For the Rockets, Alperen Sengun is listed as probable for this game with a groin strain.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Grant Williams
Malcolm Brogdon
Sam Hauser
Luke Kornet
Blake Griffin
Mike Muscala

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams (hamstring) out
Payton Pritchard (heel) out

Head Coach (Interim)
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Rockets Starters

Rockets Reserves
Josh Christopher
Tari Eason
TyTy Washington,Jr.
Jae’Sean Tate
Usman Garuba
Boban Marjanovic
Frank Kaminski III
Daishen Nix

Two Way Players
Darius Days
Trevor Hudgins

Alperen Sengun (groin) probable

Head Coach
Stephen Silas

Key Matchups

Derrick White vs Jalen Green
Jalen Green is averaging 21.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He is shooting 41.4% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc. The Rockets second year player is playing very well and is leading them in scoring this season. In the first game against the Celtics he finished with 28 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. He shot 50% from the field and 27.3% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to defend him well to keep him from having a big game.

Marcus Smart vs Kevin Porter, Jr
Kevin Porter, Jr is averaging 18.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 43.2% from the field and 34.8% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics in the first game, he finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists. He shot 44.4% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. He is capable of having a big game if not defended well.

Honorable Mention
Al Horford vs Alperen Sengun
Sengun is averaging 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He is shooting 55.5% from the field and 31.8% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, Sengun did not take a shot or score any points. He did have 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. the Celtics need to keep him out of the paint and off the boards.

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 110.3 points per game (29th). The Celtics are averaging 117.9 points per game (4th). The Rockets are 29th with a defensive rating of 118.2 while the Celtics are 4th with a defensive rating of 111.1. The Celtics especially need to defend the paint as the Rockets are 6th with 54.3 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 45.2 rebounds per game (7th) while the Rockets average 46.4 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 16.9 second chance points per game. On Saturday, the Hawks had 13 offensive rebounds to just 5 for the Celtics and the Hawks scored 20 second chance points. 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 have won their last 2 games and it would be easy to underestimate the 15-52 Rockets, but they have to come into this game with the same mindset they have approaching the top teams. The Celtics should not make the mistake of underestimating the Rockets and come in with less than their best effort. The Rockets beat the Bucks and Suns this season and so if the Celtics don’t take this game seriously, the Rockets could surprise them.

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. If they allow the Rockets to play harder than them, they may end up with a loss. They also have to play hard for 48 minutes and not let up if they get a lead.

On the Road - The Celtics will be on the road and need to block out the distractions that playing on the road brings with travel, missing loved ones and playing in front of a hostile crowd. They have to stay focused on the game and playing hard and not allow a hostile crowd to distract them.

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.

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