Jan 10, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets power forward Dwight Howard (12) shoots over top of Atlanta Hawks center Pero Antic (6) during the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics - Houston Rockets: Preview

The Boston Celtics return home tonight following a difficult road trip that saw the Cs go 0-5 against some of the best teams the Western Conference has to offer.

Nov 19, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Celtics shooting guard Jordan Crawford (27) drives the ball to the basket during the third quarter as Houston Rockets power forward Dwight Howard (12) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

That’s the good news (being home, that is).  The bad news is that the Celtics’ opponent tonight is the Houston Rockets, who just happen to be ANOTHER one of the best teams in the Western Conference.  (The Rockets currently hold the 6th spot in the West.)

Ah well: it is the NBA.  You can’t expect any freebies.

Despite the fact that Boston could not secure a victory during their hellacious West Coast swing, the Celtics gave the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors, and the Portland Trail Blazers all that those teams could handle.  I wasn’t sure that Boston was going to ever get its “never say die” attitude back following their terrible 129-98 loss to the Denver Nuggets, but the team immediately resumed playing the sort of basketball that made them a nice surprise through the first month and a half of the this 2013-2014 season.

Speaking of surprises, second-unit players Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless provided some spark off of the bench for the Cs during their road trip.  I had already been a fan of Humphries, so his recent play (most notably the game against Golden State) only continues to make me hope that the Cs can find a way to re-sign Hump when his contract expires at the end of this season.  Bayless, however, really provided some quality minutes off of the bench, distributing 17 assists in four games for Boston, giving the second unit a true ballhandler.  Imagine a second unit with Jordan Crawford and Bayless sharing ballhandling responsibilities once Rajon Rondo returns – intriguing, indeed.

Of course, getting a win here and there NOW would be better than moral victories and “What ifs?” about the future, so here is how the Celtics can earn one tonight:

1. Attack Dwight Howard.

I would really like to see Howard play about 15 minutes tonight – wouldn’t that be great?  The Celtics should make a concerted effort to go after Howard – drive the lane, get him in foul trouble early.  When Howard has the ball on the other end, swarm him – force him to try and muscle his way through defenders, or to make decisions with the rock.  He already averages a tad over 3 turnovers per game; if the Celts can frustrate him into throwing the ball away and picking up some early fouls, they can attack the paint with abandon.

2. Control the glass, and the rock.

The Houston Rockets like to run. They average 105.3 points per game, just put up 114 against the Washington Wizards the other night, and torched the Celtics for 109 when the teams first met in November.  As much as I think the Celtics play better when they turn the game into a bit of a chaotic scramble, there’s little chance that the Celtics will out run-and-gun the Rockets tonight.  That doesn’t mean Boston should be afraid to run the ball, or swarm the Rockets on the defensive end, but the Celtics need to watch the turnovers and really crash the glass in order to keep Houston from turning the game into a true track meet.

The game begins at 7:30. Follow us on Twitter – @HoudiniCeltics – and check back in after the game for our thoughts!  Also: visit the Fan Picks thread and enter the competition!



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