Jan 11, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger (7) drives against Houston Rockets power forward Patrick Patterson (54) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Celtics will travel to Houston tonight and look to catch the Rockets on one of their down nights. They’ll travel to the Toyota Center in hopes of containing James Harden, Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin who has come on as of late.
The Celtics will look to recover after losing four straight games after winning for straight in the previous four games. If the Celtics lose tonight, that will give them a losing streak of five games which would be their worst of the season after an initial three game losing streak.
The Celtics will be presented with many challenges, but if they’d like to keep themselves from falling to 4-8 they’ll need to conquer them all. We’ll discuss their three keys below.
Protect the Glass
The Boston Celtics will need to protect against the glass eaters on the Rockets if they want to have a chance tonight. They’ve got some great rebounding guards on the team and one of the best rebounders in the league in Dwight Howard. The Celtics will need to stop him from getting his hands on the ball as it comes down by boxing him out and possibly giving him double teams under the glass.
If they don’t, they may get a ton of three point shots off of offensive rebound looks and the Rockets are still one of the more deadly three point shooting teams in the league. The Celtics are going to need Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphires and Kelly Olynyk to play big on the glass tonight.
I’ve been impressed with Olynyk on the glass so far in his career and Sullinger has always been a rebound eater. Now that Kris Humphires and Brandon Bass are somewhat falling out of the rotation, a lot of the pressure will be on them to contain the excellent rebounders that the Rockets have.
Defend the three ball
The Rockets, again, are a great three point shooting team. Even Jeremy Lin has had them falling for him now and he’s been an erratic shooter in the past. They’ll need to close out and contest the more than they ever have in a game this season tonight.
They’ll have to watch out for the paint penetration off of the three point shot as well. James Harden and Jeremy Lin are great drive and kick players. Also, Chandler Parsons will get involved in driving and kicking if he needs to. That’s why the Celtics must contest without over-aggressively giving themselves up and running into shooters. That could lead to a lot of fouls on jump shots and the Rockets are especially good at swinging the ball so perimeter rotations will need to be crisp.
The Rockets are 29th in the league in points allowed per game and 21st in overall defensive rating. Dwight Howard, just like Omer Asik, is a great paint defender but hasn’t been able to cure all of the Rockets perimeter defender woes.
The Rockets have a ton of negative defenders on the perimeter. Guys like James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia are going to be able to be exploited at some point tonight. Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford and Jared Sullinger when the Rockets play small will need to get their touches tonight. Sullinger’s scoring is especially important because of the Rockets small lineups.
The Celtics are going to have to dictate size tonight to the Rockets and force them to play big. If they can do that, that will take away that extra umph that the Rockets get in the three point game.
If the Celtics can do these three things tonight, they’ll be able to beat Houston. I expect them to be in the game until late because of their defensive ability. It’s going to come down to last second possessions and decisions by the coaches to determine the winner of this one. If you ask me, I really like the C’s chances tonight.