at Boston Celtics (20-13) at Houston Rockets (18-15)
Thursday, December 27, 2018
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #34, Road Game #18
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, ESPN Radio
Toyota CenterProbable Starting Matchups Point Guard
Kyrie Irving vs James Harden
Marcus Smart vs Eric GordonSmall Forward
Jayson Tatum vs Danuel HousePower Forward
Marcus Morris vs PJ TuckerCenter
Al Horford vs Clint Capela Reserves
Jabari Bird (personal) out
Aron Baynes (hand) outTwo Way Players
Michael Carter Williams
James Harden (calf) questionable
Chris Paul (hamstring) out
James Ennis (hamstring) day to day
Carmelo Anthony (not with team) out
Two Way Players
Mike D'Antoni Game Notes
The Celtics travel to Houston for the first of two games with the Houston Rockets. They will meet again in Boston on March 3. They split the series last season with each team winning on their home court. The Rockets have won 6 of their last 7 at home and 7 of 8 overall. This begins a 3 game Western road trip for the Celtics that will also take them to San Antonio and Memphis.
Both teams have won 2 in a row including a win on Christmas day with the Celtics beating the Sixers and the Rockets beating the Thunder. The Celtics are 9-8 on the road while the Rockets are 11-5 at home. Both are 7-3 in their last 10 games.
Th Celtics are 5th in the East, just 1 game behind 4th place Sixers and 4 games behind first place Raptors. Houston is in 7th place in the West and they are also 4 games back of the first place Nuggets. The Rockets are 7-4 vs Eastern Conference teams while the Celtics are 5-6 vs Western Conference teams.
The Celtics are still missing Aron Baynes, who is targeting MLK Day for his return. The Rockets will miss Chris Paul, who is out with a hamstring injury. James Harden injured his calf on Christmas day but that didn't stop him from finishing that game with 39 points. He is listed as questionable for this game. James Ennis is day to day with a hamstring injury.
Kyrie Irving vs James Harden
With Chris Paul out with the injury, James Harden has moved to the point guard spot. Both players are coming off big games on Christmas day. Harden is averaging 32.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game. Harden is rumored to have a calf contusion so is listed as questionable. I have a feeling he will play but if he doesn't, Austin Rivers should see the majority of his minutes. If Harden plays, I can see Smart guarding him rather than Kyrie. We all remember Smart getting into Harden's head in the past and will probably do it again.
Marcus Smart vs Eric Gordon
Gordon is averaging 15.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists. As I said, we may see Smart covering Harden and Kyrie on Gorden. Neither Harden or Gordon is a lock down defender and so we may see another big game from Kyrie in this one. Honorable Mention
Al Horford vs Clint Capela
Capela is averaging 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.97 blocks per game. He is also their rim protector. Al said he felt good after his 30 minutes playing against Embiid on Christmas and should be up to the task of guarding Capela in this one.
Keys to the Game Defense
- Defense is always a key to every game. Defense wins games. The Rockets are 19th in the league in scoring at 109.3 ppg. The Celtics are 12th, averaging 111.6 points per game. The Rockets are 26th with a defensive rating of 111.2 while the Celtics are 3rd with a defensive rating of 103.4. The Celtics absolutely need to play hard nose gritty team defense. 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. They can't allow the Rockets to own the boards, which will limit the Celtics fast breaks as well as their second chance points. Houston averages 41.7 rebounds while the Celtics average 46.1 rebounds per game. Much of rebounding is effort and when the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards, it usually carries over into the rest of their game.Energy and Aggressiveness
- The Celtics need to play physical ball and be aggressive on both ends of the court. They have to come out and play hard from start to finish with no let up. At times it seems that when the Celtics get a lead, they stop being aggressive. They have to be aggressive and they have to play like the team that wants it more for 48 minutes. They can't let the Rockets get a big lead in this one because they won't give it back.
- The Celtics team meeting addressed selfish play and not playing a team game. They seem to have righted the ship in that area in their last two wins. They have to continue to play team ball, making the extra pass and finding the open man for the best shot available. X-Factors On the Road
- The Celtics are playing the 1st game of a 3 game road trip. They have to focus on the task at hand and not allow the distractions of the road and a hostile crowd to take them out of the game. Officiating
- The officiating is always an x-factor. James Harden always seems to get more than his share of free throws. The Celtics can't let star calls in his direction take away their focus. They have to play through whatever calls go against them. Hopefully the refs will call the game evenly and it won't be an issue but you never know.