Celtics will have to use everything left in tank to take down Rockets


BOSTON – No matter where Houston falls on the schedule, the Rockets are going to be a tough opponent to beat. 

Boston will see Houston tonight on the back end of a back-to-back, in a season in which the Celtics (28-10) have played more games than anyone, Rockets included. 

“It’s gonna be a big challenge for us,” Boston’s Al Horford said moments after the Celtics defeated Charlotte 102-91, on Wednesday. 

And yes, Horford is well aware that the way this game falls schedule-wise will only add to the degree of difficulty he and the rest of his Celtics teammates will face tonight. 

But as Horford astutely pointed out, there really is no good time to face Houston (25-7) which has the second-best record in the NBA (Golden State is 27-7).

“It’s tough, period,” Horford said about facing Houston. “We’re excited about the challenge. It’ll be a fun game.”

Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into tonight’s game between Boston and Houston who rank third and second in the NBA, respectively, in the winning percentage this season. 



We all know the Boston Celtics love to take 3’s. There’s taking 3’s and then there’s what the Rockets do, which takes long-range shooting to another stratosphere. This season, 51.3 percent of Houston’s shots taken are three-pointers which is the highest all-time percentage in NBA history. They are also averaging 15.9 made 3-pointers this season which if it holds up, would break the NBA record they set in this category last season (14.4 made 3’s per game). 



James Harden’s status as one of the game’s elite players is not in question. But his chances at finally coming away with the league’s MVP award … that’s another story. Harden has finished among the top-five finishers for the league’s MVP award in three of the last four years which includes a pair of runner-up finishes in 2015 (Golden State’s Stephen Curry won the first of back-to-back league MVP awards) and 2017 (Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook was the winner). This season, Harden is once again in the conversation. He’s averaging a league-best 32.4 points per game along with 9.2 assists and 5.2 rebounds.



The second quarter was pretty good for Boston in Wednesday’s victory over Charlotte (they outscored the Hornets 32-28 in the second), but it has a rough time most of this season. And tonight’s matchup against Houston won’t make their lives any easier. The Rockets aren’t just a good second quarter team; they’re actually the best, at least when it comes to scoring. Houston comes into tonight’s game averaging a league-best 29.9 points per game in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the scoring spectrum, averaging a league-low 24.2 points per game in the second. 



James Harden and Chris Paul are a handful for any team to deal with, but often the Celtics have the most problems with role players who have one particular strength that plays off Boston’s biggest weakness. Boston will be without Clint Capela due to an orbital fracture injury. His high-energy play was going to be an issue for the Celtics, similar to how he played last season against Boston when finished with a near double-double of 11 points and nine rebounds in less than 22 minutes of action. 



Terry Rozier was among the key performers in Boston’s win at Charlotte on Wednesday, scoring 15 points off the bench. How many points he scores against the Rockets remains to be seen, but one thing we all know: Rozier will play major minutes. This season he has played a total of 888 minutes which is tops among all players coming off the bench.


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