Monday, January 10, 2011
Game 37: Celtics vs. Rockets
By Chris Forsberg
at TD Garden, 7:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)
||(28-8, 16-2 home)
||-- vs. --
|| (16-21, 6-14 away)
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
The Boston Celtics are trying to rebound from one of their worst performances of the season. Kevin Garnett might be back to help them do just that.
The Celtics could be in for a major lift if Garnett is able to return to the court as they open a six-game homestand against the sputtering Houston Rockets on Monday night.
Boston (28-8) saw its four-game winning streak end with a 37.8-percent shooting performance in Saturday's 90-79 loss at Chicago.
"We had a lot of one-pass shooting," said Paul Pierce, who had 21 points and three of Boston's season-low 12 assists against the Bulls. "There's really no explanation. That's really not the way we play."
The Celtics may feel much more comfortable at TD Garden, where they're an Eastern Conference-best 16-2 and have won three in a row.
They may also find comfort in Garnett's impending return as they begin a stretch of seven games in 13 days. Garnett is due back this week after missing six games with a right leg injury -- suffered on a dunk late in the first quarter of a 104-92 loss at Detroit on Dec. 29.
Garnett is averaging 15.0 points and a team-leading 9.5 rebounds on the season. He's averaging 22.1 points and 11.8 boards in his last 18 games against Houston (16-21).
Boston has dropped seven of its last nine home meetings with the Rockets, including a 119-114 overtime defeat April 2 as the teams split last season's two-game series.
Paul Pierce, the Celtics' leader with 19.1 points per game, is averaging 26.3 on 59.5-percent shooting over the last three matchups against Houston.
The Rockets, 6-14 on the road, are trying to avoid their first six-game overall losing streak since Nov. 13-23, 2007.
They appeared ready to end their current slide Saturday, but wasted a 14-point halftime lead and lost 103-99 in overtime to Utah.
"Same problems we were having early in the season, we have now," said Luis Scola, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds against the Jazz. "It's frustrating. We deserved to win this game, but we didn't know how to close it out."
Houston shot a season-low 37.8 percent from the field, including a 3-for-25 effort from 3-point range. The Rockets are giving up an average of 108.4 points over their last seven games.
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- To KG or not KG: That is the question Doc Rivers and his staff will have to consider this evening. Rivers suggested last week that Garnett could be back as early as Monday's tilt, but there seems little reason to rush him (even if the Celtics are coming off a loss in Chicago). Exercising the same caution they've operated with in regards to all injured players this season, Boston should wait until Garnett is deemed 100 percent by the training staff before launching him back into action. The start of a six-game homestand seems as good a time as any to be cautious. All that said, if he's indeed healthy after sitting out the past 11 days with a strained right calf, Rivers suggested they won't hesitate to just toss him back in the fire.
- Join the movement: The Celtics abandoned the style of play that made their offense so efficient during four wins last week, most notably setting screens and generating easy looks through ball movement (read more HERE). After a stagnant performance against the Bulls, expect the Celtics to operate with renewed vigor against a Rockets team that gives up 104.6 points per game and has lost five in a row.
- Eyes on Wafer: Celtics reserve guard Von Wafer enjoyed his best NBA days with the Rockets and, while he's been a bit of a journeyman during the early stages of his career, it would seem Monday's game would certainly have some extra meaning to him. Need a reminder of his exploits with Houston, check out THIS video. Wafer averaged a career-best 9.7 points over 19.4 minutes per game as a key reserve with Houston's 2008-09 squad.