Game Preview: Celtics at Rockets
BOSTON – Consecutive games against the NBA’s three Texas teams is known as the Texas Triangle around NBA circles. That term typically denotes three road games in Texas, but the Boston Celtics (12-9) are in the midst of a unique trek against those three franchises.
“We started our Texas swing today, playing Dallas at home,” Doc Rivers said Wednesday night, “and now we go and play two more Texas teams.”
On the road.
Boston will visit the Rockets (10-11) at 8 p.m. tonight in Houston before taking on the Spurs Saturday night in San Antonio. The Celtics already dispatched Dallas Wednesday night at home, but that victory didn’t come easy. Paul Pierce (34 points), Rajon Rondo (16 points, nine rebounds, 15 assists) and Kevin Garnett (16 points) helped to power the C’s through two overtime sessions en route to the win.
Wednesday’s victory put Boston three games over the .500 mark for the first time this season. Several players and coaches, most notably Jason Terry, have recently said that the team is looking to put together a long string of victories. They currently own a two-game winning streak, and they’ll need to go through one of the league’s most electric scorers in order to keep that streak alive.
Houston acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 27 in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and three future picks. Harden has since turned into the superstar Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has coveted for years.
Harden burst onto the scene in Houston with a 37-point, 12-assist performance in the team’s opening night victory over Detroit. He followed that up with a 45-point game against the Hawks two nights later. He has scored at least 30 points on six occasions this season, including Wednesday night against Washington (31 points), and ranks fifth in the league in scoring with an average of 25.0 points per game.
Harden has been Houston’s top performer but he isn’t the only recent acquisition who has shined this season. Omer Asik, who was signed away from Chicago in the summer, is averaging a double-double with 10.6 points per game and 11.6 rebounds per game. Jeremy Lin left the Knicks to play in Houston and he is also putting up solid numbers with nightly averages of 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists.
Those three players lead a starting group for Houston that is talented and balanced at the offensive end. Scoring, however, isn’t the Rockets’ problem.
Houston gives up a league-worst 104.8 points a night. Opponents are making 46.1 percent of their shots and 38.3 percent of their 3s against the Rockets. That unreliable defense is not going to win many games.
Boston is coming off of a tough offensive game in which it shot just 43 percent from the field. The numbers tells us that the Celtics’ shooting percentage should be much higher tonight in the second stride of their Texas Three-Step.
Rivers canceled Thursday’s practice and that move was for good reason. Wednesday’s game started at 8 p.m. and it went into two overtime sessions. It’s likely that the players didn’t crawl into their beds until at least 1 a.m. Thursday morning, and boy, did they need their beds after that game.
Four of Boston’s five starters logged at least 40 minutes of playing time Wednesday night. Rondo was on the floor for a season-high 52 minutes and 30 seconds. Garnett, who had averaged about 28 minutes of playing time prior to Wednesday, logged 40 minutes.
Those high minute totals may come into play tonight. The C’s were “off” on Thursday but they were still forced to hop on a plane and fly to Houston. We’ll find out tonight if their legs can bounce back quickly to hang with this young and energetic Rockets team.
Don’t Let Harden Beat You
The Celtics have been trapping their opponents’ best players lately, and you can bet that will continue tonight against Harden. He is electric with the ball and he can score from anywhere on the floor.
One of Boston’s keys will be containing Harden. He scores 28.1 PPG in Houston’s wins, but just 21.9 PPG in its losses. If Boston’s new trapping defense can make life difficult on Harden, that will surely put it on track to a third consecutive win.
Another Big Night for Pierce?
Pierce is coming off of a season-high 34 points against the Mavericks Wednesday night. He didn’t shoot the ball incredibly well, making just 11 of his 25 shots, but he was aggressive and took it to Dallas.
The Celtics would be smart to lean on Pierce again tonight. He’ll be defended by a youngster in Chandler Parsons, who has certainly held his own this season with averages of 15.8 PPG and 6.6 RPG. Parsons’ weight, however, might be his flaw.
The second-year forward out of Florida is a lanky 6-foot-9. He has two inches of height on Pierce yet weighs nearly 10 less pounds than Boston’s All-Star forward. Pierce played with his back to the basket quite a bit Wednesday night. He may wind up doing the same tonight against Parsons.