The Boston Celtics (13-25, 8-10 home) host the Houston Rockets (24-14, 9-9 away) on Monday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
HOME SWEET HOME?: The Celtics didn't get a win on a daunting five-game road trip, but they finished stronger than they started, showing fight when encountering adversity and showing they can at least hang with some of the better teams in the West. Now, back at TD Garden, the Celtics have to take the next step and show they can beat a legit West contender like Houston. Boston has lost eight straight and 11 of its last 12 overall. It's last win was here on Dec. 28 vs. Cleveland. You'd have to go back nearly a month to Dec. 16 to find the team's last win before that.
AVOID THE LULLS: Boston's biggest problem this season has been an inability to string together 48 minutes of effort. The team has been prone to lulls in which it takes its foot off the gas and leads evaporate, or opposing teams race away. As Stevens noted after Saturday's loss in Portland, "You've got a shot to win against three contenders for the West, but, at the same time, those droughts are killing us. I think we can get better in those. But I'm trying to figure out what it is because we're really playing at such a high level the whole rest of the time."
ROCKETS AT A GLANCE: The Rockets rank fourth in the league in offensive rating and 13th in defensive rating. They attack the glass, ranking eighth in offensive rebound rate and sixth overall (though the Rockets are 23rd in defensive rebound rate). Boston can find success putting pressure on the ball. The Rockets rank 28th in turnover percentage and are last in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. As STATS LLC points out, the Rockets are 11-3 when they get to 22 assists this year, but struggle when they don't.
WHAT ELSE?: Chandler Parsons has missed the last three games, but is with the team and expected to play against Boston. ... The Rockets throttled Boston 109-85 in November, one of Boston's most lopsided losses of the season.