Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Boston Celtics

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After going an impressive 4-1 over a five game road trip, ending in shocking back-to-back wins against the Warriors and Nuggets, the Rockets are back home to face the Boston Celtics. The Rockets are led in both scoring and assists by James Harden (28.3 points and 11.8 assists per game), and in rebounding by Clint Capela, who pulls in 8.4 rebounds a game. After what was possibly their toughest 20 game stretch of the season, the Rockets rank 3rd in offensive rating, 27th in defense, and 7th in net rating.

After starting off 3-4, the Celtics have turned their season around a bit, going 9-4 since, now sitting at 12-8 on the season, and third in the eastern conference. The Celtics are led in points and assists by Isaiah Thomas, who averages 26.3 points per game to go with 6.4 assists, and in rebounds by Avery Bradley, who averages 7.9 rebounds a game. The Celtics rank 9th in offensive rating, 18th in defensive rating, and 11th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

The Rockets had a bit of an injury scare with Trevor Ariza going down late in the blowout victory over the Nuggets with back spasms. Ariza is reportedly day-to-day and was limited in practice on Sunday. The Rockets are likely to continue to start with James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes, and one of Dekker or Brewer in Ariza's place if he can't go.

The Celtics wanted to make a big splash in free agency this off-season, and while they didn't get Kevin Durant, they got arguably the next best guy available in Al Horford. The Celtics are likely to start Isaiah Thomas at point guard, Avery Bradley at shooting guard, Jae Crowder at small forward, Amir Johnson at power forward, and Al Horford at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Big Al - In two games against the Rockets last season, Al Horford dominated the game, averaging 26 and 11 to go with over 50% shooting from 3. Watch to see if Clint Capela is able to do a better job than Dwight when guarding Al Horford.

  • Hit the boards - The Celtics rank dead last in defensive rebounding percentage, while the Rockets rank third in offensive rebounding percentage. Watch to see if the Rockets can continue to bludgeon teams on the boards, especially the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA.

  • Montrezl showing up - Over the last two games, Montrezl Harrell served as the backup center, while Nene sat out with knee soreness. Montrezl did not disappoint, averaging nearly 11 points and 7 rebounds to go with a block and a half in about 22 minutes per game. Watch to see if Harrell has earned a permanent spot in the rotation when Nene returns to action.


Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets are riding high, after following an impressive win over the Warriors with a dominant win against the young Nuggets. I expect them to continue their strong play and finish Monday's game with a win over the Celtics, who struggled to put down the 76ers on Saturday.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time at Toyota Center in Houston on Monday, December 5th. The game will be televised on NBA TV, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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