at Toyota Center, Houston, Texas, 8:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)
PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Defending the Arc: In the Celtics' most recent three losses, their opponents have shot a combined 25-of-58 from 3-point nation (43.1 percent). For the season, the C's rank sixth in the league in 3-point field goal defense, as opponents have shot just 34.1 percent from distance. When the Rockets defeated the Celtics at home back on Jan. 10th, they shot 50 percent (10-of-20) from the nation (granted, Aaron Brooks made five of those and he is now a member of the Phoenix Suns).
Eyes on Rondo: Rajon Rondo has drawn a slew of tough point guard matchups in the Celtics' last handful of games, and while Houston's Kyle Lowry isn't regarded as one of the league's elite quarterbacks, the Villanova product has averaged 18.4 points and 7.1 assists over his last 10 games. Rondo will be in for another tough draw, and it would be encouraging to see him respond with a breakthrough game, as he continues to work his way out of his recent streak of lackluster play.
Move the Ball: The Celtics still rank first in the NBA in assists per game, with a nightly average of 23.9. That figure was well above 24 for most of the season, however, and in its last six games, Boston boasts an average of just 21 assists per game. While some of this can be attributed to the recent up-and-down play of Rondo, the C's as a team can make strides to improve in this area. The Rockets are basically an average team when it comes to allowing assists, as opponents currently drop 20.8 helpers against them, good for 13th overall in the NBA.
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
The Rockets are in 10th place in the West as they try to catch Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Houston lost its first two games without Luis Scola before winning the last two. Kevin Martin led five Rockets in double figures with 21 points in Wednesday's 94-78 win over Charlotte. The Rockets never trailed for the sixth time this season, limiting the Bobcats to 37.2 percent shooting -- the third-lowest mark allowed by Houston.
"It's a solid win for our guys," coach Rick Adelman said. "We came out and defended them pretty well. We did what we had to do, which was control the game from the very start."
Read the full preview HERE.