Celtics Begin Key Road Trip in Houston

Boston Celtics (48-18) at Houston Rockets (35-34)
Friday, March 18
8:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #67, Road Game #32
TV:  CSN-NE, FSH, NBA-LP 763/764
Radio:  WEEI, KILT
Toyota Center 
Referees:   Jason Phillips,  John Goble,  Josh Tiven
This is the second and final meeting between these two teams.  The Rockets beat the Celtics in the Garden 108-102, giving the Celtics one of their 6 losses at home.  The Celtics are fighting with the Bulls for the top spot in the East while the Rockets are fighting to make the playoffs, just 2.5 games out of 8th in the West. 

The Celtics are finally starting to get healthy with Delonte finally back and the promise of the O'Neals soon to follow.  The second unit is rounding into shape and was a big reason for the Celtics win over the Pacers.    Now, the starters have to get focused and rested for the Celtics to actually show what they can do.   In the meantime, we never know whether we will see the team that beat the Bucks and the Pacers or the team that lost to the Clippers and the Nets.

The Celtics have lost the last 2 overall to the Rockets, both in Boston and they have a 4 game win streak going in Houston.  Both teams are 7-3 in their last 10 games and the Celtics are coming off a win while the Rockets have a 2 win streak going.  The Celtics are 19-12 on the road while the Rockets are 19-14 at home.

If the bench continues to gel and the team regains focus, they should be able to get a win in this game.   This being the first of a back to back set, hopefully they will take care of business early and get the starters some rest.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo vs Kyle Lowry

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen vs Kevin Martin

Small Forward
Paul Pierce vs Chase Budinger 

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett vs Patrick Patterson 


Nenad Krstic vs Chuck Hayes  

Jeff Green
Sasha Pavlovic
Troy Murphy
Carlos Arroyo
Avery Bradley
Glen Davis
Delonte West

Shaquille O'Neal (knee) out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Von Wafer (calf) out

Courtney Lee
Jordan Hill
Goran Dragic
Brad Miller
DeMarre Carroll
Hasheem Thabeet

Yao Ming (ankle)  out
Terrence Williams (abdominal)  questionable
Luis Scola (knee) possible
Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Kyle Lowry
As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.  According to KG, Rondo has been playing in pain and my guess is that it is the plantar fasciitis that has been bothering him much of the year.  He didn't score against the Pacers but did make some great passes and had assists.  If he is injured,  Doc should rest him up for the playoffs and give Arroyo and West some extra playing time. 

Ray Allen vs Kevin Martin
Martin is the focal point of the Rockets attack and is averaging 22.8 points per game.  Ray will need to try to limit Martin's effectiveness while also looking for his own shot.  Running Martin off of a ton of screens should slow him down a bit.  Hopefully the starters will get off to a better start than they have in their last couple of  games. 

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Patrick Patterson
Patterson is a young and up and coming player for the Rockets.  Hopefully KG and will come out focused and take advantage of this matchup from the beginning.   KG should have a big game and the Celtics need to look for him on offense. 

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics must keep their defensive mindset.    Defense wins games and it will win a championship.  The Celtics' defense took a step back at the trade deadline, but they are beginning to develop chemistry but that trend needs to continue as the Celtics defense builds toward the playoffs.   

Rebounding -  Rebounding is second to defense in importance in winning games.   The Celtics need to put out effort to crash the boards and prevent the Rockets second chance points and fast break opportunities.   They also give themselves extra possessions by grabbing the offensive rebounds.   Big Baby has had 14 and 9 rebounds in his last 2 games and it would be great if he can continue that work on the boards. 

Ball Movement - The Celtics are tough to beat when they keep the ball moving and find the open man.  It is when the ball gets stagnant and players try to do too much and the ball stops moving that the Celtics struggle to score and look vulnerable. 

Be Aggressive -  Too many times  we see the Celtics get beat to loose balls and rebounds.  the Celtics have to be aggressive in going after loose balls, grabbing rebounds and taking the ball to the basket.  The more aggressive team will get  more respect from the refs and they also take some steam out of the other team by attacking and being aggressive. 

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics can't afford to come out sluggish or to slack off after the half or down the stretch. They have to come out strong and play for 48 minutes without let up.  The bench has to continue where the starters leave off and give the team a boost when they come in.  Lately, the bench has been doing their part, now the starters have to get back on track. 

Official Report

Jason Phillips
Phillips has been in the league for 8 years. He has officiated 380+ regular season games. Before landing in the NBA he worked for the CBA 6 seasons, the WNBA 3 seasons, 2 years in the Dallas Pro-Am, and 5 seasons at the high school level in Texas. Phillips has officiated only one other game for the Celtics, the last Orlando game in which the Celtics shot 34 free throws to 16 for the Magic. The Celtics are 7-3 over their last 10 games with Phillips as a ref while Houston is 5-5 with Phillips over their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 33-21.

John Goble
John Goble is a relatively new referee in the NBA in his 3rd season in the league. He’s officiated 208+ regular season games and 2 playoff games. Seems odd that Goble already has called a couple of playoff games with just 3 years of experience and others have been in the league 12 years or more and haven't cracked the playoff rotation yet. The Celtics are 4-1 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 games that Goble has officiated. The Rockets are 8-2 in their last 10 games with Goble. His home W/L record this season is 37-19.

Josh Tiven
This is Tiven's first full season as an NBA Referee. He was part of a group of NBDL refs last season who officiated several games as part of an initiative aimed at preparing top prospects to move up. He also spent time calling games in the WNBA and college before moving to the NBDL. The Celtics are 2-1 so far this seaaon with Tiven as an official. The loss was the Celtics 108-102 loss to the Rockets at the Garden. The Celtics are also 3-2 in all 5 games with Tiven. The Rockets are 4-1 in all of their 5 games with Tiven. His home W/L record this season is 29-19.
Revenge and Motivation
The Rockets came into the Garden and beat the Celtics.  They need to play hard and not allow the Rockets to sweep the series.   If the Celtics want the first seed, they need to be motivated to win this game.  The Bulls are now up half a game and play the Pacers tonight.  The Celtics could fall 1.5 games behind the first seed if they lose this one.