Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Boston Celtics

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The Rockets are coming off of a tough loss to the Milwaukee Bucks as they prepare to take on the Boston Celtics, in what will be the third game in their five road trip. The Rockets are in a major slump, losing five of their last eight, and need to turn it around, currently third in the West at 34-14. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by MVP candidate James Harden, at 28.6 points, 11.6 assists, and  8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 3rd in offensive rating, 15th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating, falling one spot after their last loss.

The Boston Celtics will be looking for redemption, after losing the last meeting between the two on a blown Al Horford layup. The Celtics are also slumping, having lost their last three games, and are barely hanging onto the third seed in the East, at 26-18. Isaiah Thomas leads the Bucks in scoring and assists, at 28.9 points and 6.2 assists, and in rebounds by Avery Bradley at 6.9 rebounds per game. The Celtics rank 7th in offensive rating, 22nd in defensive rating, and 9th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

The Rockets are fully healthy for the second straight game, so will likely put out the same starting five from the beginning of the season. The Rockets will likely start 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 as the NBA’s best sixth man.

The Celtics will be without their best two-way player, Avery Bradley, for Wednesday's game, which may be big for the matchup. The Celtics' starting five will likely be Isaiah Thomas at point guard, Marcus Smart at shooting guard, Jae Crowder at small forward, Amir Johnson at power forward, and Al Horford at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Rematch – The last time these two teams matched up, it was anything but pretty, with both teams shooting below 35% from three and turning the ball over a combined 27 times. The Rockets had a tough time stopping Al Horford in this game, as he had 21-9-6 and was a big factor in Boston staying in the game. Watch to see if the two teams play closer to what we have seen from them offensively than they did last time, and if the Rockets are able to limit Al Horford's output.

  • Shooting Struggles – After shooting the lights out in the first two months of the season, the Rockets have struggled to shoot the ball in January. The Rockets are currently shooting 33.5% from three this month, good for 27th in the league, and sharpshooter Eric Gordon is shooting just 30.8% during this stretch. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to find their groove once again, and get back to the 60-win pace they were on earlier in the year.

  • Attack the Glass – The Celtics are deal last in defensive rebound percent, while the Rockets are 8th in offensive rebound percent, making the Celtics weakness something easy for the Rockets too exploit. Watch to see if Clint Capela and Ryan Anderson are able to generate extra possessions, especially if the three point shot is still missing for the Rockets.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets need to end this skid.

I expect that the Rockets poor shooting will end, and they hand Boston their 19th loss of the season.

Tip-off will be at 6:30 P.M. Central Time in Boston on Wednesday, January 25th. The game will be televised on ROOT Sports, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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