If you thought the Celtics put up too many threes, I’d like to introduce you to the Houston Rockets. Houston leads the league in both three point attempts and makes. So, if players start to slip when they go into the paint, it might not be moisture, but dust that’s causing them to slip.
The Celtics will take on the Rockets at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston for an 8:00 tip-off time. The Celtics will be trying to add to their five game road win-streak.
ISAIAH AND HARDEN HAVE A LOT IN COMMON
Both players were castaway sixth men, who flourished when traded. Both of them get to the free throw line a lot. Harden is third in the NBA is free throw attempts with 207, or 10.4 per game. Thomas has gotten to the line 182 times, or 9.1 time per game. Both players will tell you that they should have been to the line a lot more than they have. Thomas has shot his free throws a little better than Harden. IT averages 8.1 free throws made per game, while Harden is at 8.6 per game.
Harden’s primary skill for getting to the line is showing the ball, and being very shifty with his arms. If he sees an opponents arm horizontal, he will bring the ball under the arm and shoot. Thomas is all about attacking the opponents body, and trying to initiate contact, which also creates space for him to get his shot off. I do need some sleep tonight, so hopefully these two don’t go to crazy with the free throws tonight.
THE CELTICS HAVE A REALLY TOUGH STRETCH AHEAD OF THEM
Boston plays Houston, Orlando, Toronto, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Charlotte in their next six games. This stretch is going to be a real challenge for a Celtics team that’s still trying to put the pieces together. Tonight’s game could be a real tone setter for the Celtics. It won’t be easy though, as no team has played less home games than Houston. The Rockets will be playing in just their seventh home game this season, while having played fourteen on the road.
SMART LOOKING TO BREAK OUT OF HIS SHOOTING SLUMP, AND HE WILL
This is a very bold prediction when you know that Smart has shot 1 for 18 in Houston in his only two games played there. But, Smart has been in a slump for a long time. He hasn’t made over half of the shots he’s taken in a game since November 3rd. That was after shooting almost 50% from the field for the entire preseason. He put in a lot of work on his shot in the regular season, but I think his muscle memory has memory loss issues once the game gets going. He needs to go back to driving to the basket, and using his mid-range shot more.
THE CELTICS NEED TO WIN MOST OF THE HUSTLE PLAYS
Houston is near the bottom of the league in both loose balls recovered, and deflections. They are also 26th in the league at turning the ball over, and only 21st in steals. The Celtics need to have a ton of energy tonight, and be very opportunistic.
THE CELTICS CAN WIN THE REBOUNDING BATTLE
The Rockets are about middle of the pack when it comes to rebounding. But, they don’t allow a lot of rebounds, as they’re 4th in the league in rebounds against. They take a lot of threes, so the paint can be really spaced out. If the Celtics can collapse the paint once the shot goes up, then they should be able to limit Houston’s second chance opportunities. Houston has one good rebounder in Clint Capela, so they just need to make sure they put a body on him. Harden is a decent rebounder, but he’s not going to out-battle bigs.
ATTACK HARDEN ALL NIGHT
Houston has great length on their team, and it allows them to switch a lot. In year’s past that basically meant Harden could just walk around and pick up the player who was moving the least and the rest of the team would cover the other four guys. Harden has apparently tried to play defense this year, but it’s still early. If the Celtics can make Harden work on defense, then may slow him down offensively. An Avery Bradley and Al Horford pick-n-roll could get Harden miss-matched on Horford. Harden has quick hands, but he’s also prone to swiping at the ball and fouling. Horford is really good at protecting the ball, so that combination could lead to early foul trouble.
I have really enjoyed watching Harden play defense over the past couple seasons. He was incredibly entertaining on that side of the court because of how little he tried. This will be my first look at Harden this season, for an entire game. It will be interesting to see if he is a little more involved than in years past. I hope not because it really makes me laugh, and he actually has a six minute long video that has put together some if his most amusing defensive lapses.