Watch It! - Celtics at Rockets
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets meet at 8 p.m. tonight at the Toyota Center.
Wake up the Offense
The Celtics were streaking on offense as they recently won four consecutive games. They averaged 104.8 points per game during that stretch while shooting 47.8 percent from the field.
Since then, the proverbial wheels have fallen off at the offensive end of the floor. Boston has averaged just 89.0 PPG and 41.0 percent shooting from the field over its past three games.
Simply put, that type of offensive output won’t get it done tonight. Houston ranks second in the league in scoring with an average of 108.8 PPG. The Celtics must wake up on offense and get back to the type of ball movement they displayed during their win streak.
Rockets Go Boarding
Houston doesn’t only score the basketball with the best of them; it also rebounds with the best of them. The Rockets lead the NBA in rebounding with an average of 47.5 boards a night.
The main reason for that league-leading average is the presence of Dwight Howard, who signed with Houston during the offseason. He leads the league in rebounding by pulling in 14.2 per game. Houston also has Omer Asik, who averages 7.3 RPG, coming off of the bench, and Terrence Jones, who has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in three of his past four games.
Boston is going to have its hands full down low. It absolutely needs Vitor Faverani, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk to body up with the Rockets every time a shot is released. Failing to do so could result in an overwhelming rebounding differential.
It was obvious Saturday night in Minnesota that the Celtics were playing in the second night of a back-to-back. They looked tired for the first time this season as they fell to the Timberwolves by a score of 106-88.
Tonight should be a completely different story. Boston should have fresh legs after resting in Houston all day on Sunday before slipping a practice session in on Monday.
Sunday’s day off should particularly help Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green. Sullinger was only able to play 13-plus minutes Saturday night after logging 36 minutes Friday night. Green, on the other hand, struggled to an 0-for-6 shooting performance while logging 30 minutes in Minnesota. Both of those players should return to their typical selves tonight.
Second Unit Performance
We all know about James Harden and Howard. Those two are superstar talents. But Houston is a title contender because it has a lot more than just those guys.
Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley and Jones have filled out the starting lineup lately. The talent continues on the bench with Asik, Jeremy Lin, Omri Casspi and Francisco Garcia. All four of those players have been starters – and quality starters – during their NBA careers.
Interestingly enough, the Celtics counter with a similar punch. Sullinger, Gerald Wallace, Courtney Lee and Kelly Olynyk are also starter-quality players. Boston’s second unit has been a strength this season.
So the question lingers as to which team’s second unit will outperform the other tonight. The answer may determine the winner.
Houston’s Length and Athleticism
Daryl Morey has put together one heck of a roster in Houston. Not only are the Rockets skilled, but they are also long and athletic at nearly every position.
That length and athleticism can affect the game in many ways. First and foremost, it makes scoring against the Rockets very difficult. It’s hard to find passing lanes and get shots off against teams that possess great length and athleticism. That’s why Houston ranks third in the league in opponent field goal percentage, allowing teams to hit only 41.7 percent of their shots. Boston must make sound decisions throughout the game to negate Houston’s advantage in these two important categories.