|Time||7 p.m. ET|
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Sunday night, the winless Boston Celtics travel to Houston to face the young, run-and-gun Rockets.
The Rockets are 1-1 after they blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night by 33 points. The Rockets are projected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA, but their young core showed glimpses of their potential.
The Celtics have gotten off to a rough start this season. They’ve dropped two consecutive games to their Atlantic Division rivals. The first loss was against the New York Knicks in a double-overtime thriller, despite a 46-point effort from Jaylen Brown. They completely folded the next game with a 32-point loss against the Toronto Raptors.
After these first two games, it is really tough to tell the identity of this Celtics team. Can they bounce back against the lowly Rockets? Or, will they fall in Houston just like their MLB baseball counterparts, the Boston Red Sox?
Celtics Offense Off to a Rough Start
The Celtics had a makeover this offseason after last year’s disappointing campaign. First, Danny Ainge retired as president of business operations and was replaced by Brad Stevens. With Stevens relinquishing the head coach duties, the Celtics hired first-time head coach and former player, Ime Udoka.
They kept their core intact, keeping Jayson Tatum and Brown, but there was a major overhaul of their supporting cast. Here is a summary of those moves:
Additions: Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Dennis Schroder, Enes Kanter
Departures: Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson
While Tatum and Brown are excellent franchise cornerstones, the rest of the roster does not incite much fear. Robert Williams III and Payton Pritchard are both young pieces that can continue to develop into strong role players.
Schroder joins the Celtics after an uninspiring one-year stint with the Lakers, settling with a one-year, $5.9 million deal after turning down a multi-year, $84 million dollar extension. Expect him to play this season with a chip on his shoulder. He hasn’t looked great in the first two games, but he adds another scoring and playmaking threat to this squad.
Brown is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with knee soreness, so keep your eye on updates to his injury status. If he misses the game, expect newcomer Richardson to get an uptick in minutes.
The Celtics offense has looked horrid, but they have faced some strong defenses in the Knicks and the Raptors in their first games. Expect their offense to look a lot better against the Rockets. The Rockets will have a hard time keeping Tatum under control.
Rockets Begin Rebuild Mode
The Rockets are officially in their first full rebuild season in the post-James Harden era. Here is a summary of their major offseason moves:
Additions: Jalen Green (rookie), Alperen Sengun (rookie), Daniel Theis
Departures: John Wall (agreed to sit out), Kelly Olynyk, Sterling Brown
They were fortunate to land the second overall pick in the NBA draft and drafted G-League star, Green. The Rockets and Wall mutually agreed to part ways strictly so the Rockets could focus on the development and growth of their new centerpiece. Green is going to be getting a ton of usage and opportunity to show his talent. However, he has gotten off to a bad start and has struggled with his shot, going 8-for-25 (32%) in his first two games.
They got their first win on Friday in dominating fashion. Granted, it was against the Thunder, another bottom-feeder, but this gives some hope and optimism to Rockets fans, who are amidst a massive youth movement.
Christian Wood exploded in the last game for 31 points. He has now led the Rockets in scoring for two consecutive games, and if he stays healthy and keeps up this type of production, he may be a strong contender for Most Improved Player.
Eric Gordon has been playing great off the bench and is helping his trade value. He may give the Rockets a slight edge in bench production against the shallow Celtics reserves.
Also, an interesting angle is the Daniel Theis “revenge game”. However, even if Theis has a good game, I think the young Rockets are too inexperienced to keep up with the likes of Tatum and Brown.
Many people are bearish on the Celtics after their horrendous start. However, a game against the Rockets is the perfect opportunity to right this ship.
Away favorites of four or more following an outright loss at home as a favorite have rebounded with a 93-57-3 (62%) ATS record since the 2017-2018 season, per our Bet Labs tool. This is active as play on the Celtics. These teams that were embarrassed at home tend to bounce back and take care of business as favorites.
Conversely, fading home underdogs of three or more points that are off a double-digit win have gone 105-61-3 (63%) ATS during this same timeframe. This is active as a fade against the Rockets.
Even after a large win, the market still doesn’t think too much of this team to make them to be underdogs at home. These teams tend to underperform and have a let-down spot after that big win.
If Brown is in, I like the Celtics to cover while everyone is down on them, and I would play that number up to -6.
Pick: Celtics -6 (if Brown plays)