The Celtics are continuing their journey as they visit the Houston Rockets. This is the second and last game between the two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 126-102 in Boston on December 27. The Celtics swept the last two season series between the two teams. This is the 2nd game of the Celtics 6 road trip.
The Celtics are second in the East, 1.5 games behind first place Milwaukee. The Celtics are one game up 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 18-5 against Western Conference opponents. They won the 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 a half-game ahead of Detroit, which is 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 the last 3 games.
The Rockets are playing in the 2nd game of a 6 game home stand. They lost the first game in Chicago on Saturday. They will face the Lakers, Pelicans twice, and Warriors to close out the home stand. The Celtics are playing the 2nd of a 6 game road trip. They started 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 an ACL tear. For the Rockets, Alperen Sengun is listed as probable for this game with a groin strain.
Most likely Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams (hamstring) out
Payton Pritchard (heel) out
Head Coach (temporary)
Probable Rockets Starters
Come on Eason
TyTy Washington, Jr.
Frank Kaminski III
Two Hundred Players
Days of Darius
Alperen Sengun (groin) probably
Derrick White vs Jalen Green
Jalen Green averaged 21.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He shot 41.4% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc. The Rockets second year player has been 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 so he doesn’t have 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 shot 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 big games if not defended well.
Al Horford vs Alperen Sengun
Sengun averaged 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He shot 55.5% from the field and 31.8% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, Sengun didn’t shoot or score. He did have 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint and off the boards.
Defense – Defense is always a key to winning. Players struggle with 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 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). Most rebounding is effort and when the Celtics put forth 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 forth an extra effort and hustle for every rebound to limit 2nd chance points for the Rockets.
Don’t underestimate – The Celtics have won their last 2 games and easily underestimated the 15-52 Rockets, but they need to come into this game with the same mindset they approach top teams. The Celtics shouldn’t make the mistake of underestimating the Rockets and coming in below their best efforts. The Rockets beat the Bucks and Suns this season and if the Celtics don’t take this game seriously, the Rockets could surprise them.
Be Aggressive – The Celtics need to be aggressive in getting the ball to the basket and not settle for 3 pointers on every possession, especially if the 3s aren’t falling. They also need to be aggressive in chasing rebounds and loose balls. And they need to be aggressive on defense. They need to play harder than the Rockets and play like the team that wants this game better. If they let the Rockets play harder than them, they can lose. They also need to play hard for 48 minutes and not let up if they get a lead.
On the road – The Celtics are on the road and need to block out the distractions that come with playing on the road while traveling, losing loved ones and playing in front of bad people. They need to stay focused on the game and play hard and not allow the bad guys to distract them.
Officiating – 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 a tie. At times the Celtics spent more time complaining to the refs than they did playing good basketball. The Celtics have to play through any calls against them and not allow bad calls or no calls to take their focus off the game.