Game Preview: Celtics at Rockets
A strong performance from the free-throw line for Dwight Howard his last time out has the Houston Rockets less worried about the ball being in his hands at the end of close games.
The star center will look to continue his recently improved foul shooting and help the Rockets to their fourth win in five games Tuesday night against the visiting Boston Celtics.
Again subjected to being intentionally fouled, as he has throughout the early season, Howard made Denver pay by going 17 of 24 on free throws and finishing with 25 points in a 122-111 victory Saturday.
The performance allowed coach Kevin McHale to leave him on the floor down the stretch.
"If he goes 17 for 24, I promise I won't take him out," McHale said. "I guess the big thing is, walk up there, knock down your free throws, and move on."
Howard is shooting 53.1 percent from the line, but he's gone 27 for 41 (65.9) in the past three games after making 14 of 39 (35.9) in the previous three.
He leads the league in free-throw attempts with 128.
"There's nothing I can do but try to make the free throws," Howard told the team's official website. "Just focus and make them pay at the line. There's nothing I can do about it besides make them. The more free throws I make, the less teams will do the Hack-A-Howard. So, I'm just going to continue to practice and they will start falling."
Houston's Chandler Parsons scored at least 20 points for the fourth time in five games Saturday.
The Rockets seek their third straight victory when they face the Celtics, losers of three in a row since a four-game winning streak. Jeff Green, averaging a team-high 15.5 points, was held to a season-low two in a 106-88 defeat at Minnesota on Saturday.
Green went 0 for 6 from the field and committed four of the Celtics' 22 turnovers, which the Timberwolves converted into 28 points.
"I just didn't perform the way I wanted to, and you know it's on me," Green said. "I've got to figure out a way to play through me missing shots and not getting calls."
The Celtics averaged 23.3 assists during their win streak but are at 15.3 during the three-game skid.
"I think we just have to find our comfort zone again," forward Jared Sullinger said. "That four-game winning streak, we found a comfort zone and we were sharing the ball. We were moving the ball things and things were hopping on the floor and didn't stay on one side. We are just over thinking and still trying to find that comfort zone."
The Celtics have excelled at defending the 3-pointer, holding opponents to 30.2 percent, among the best in the NBA. Houston leads the league in 3-point attempts at 26.5 per game, though it's making just 32.9 percent of them.