Celtics-Rockets preview: C's look to keep rolling

963715.jpg

Celtics-Rockets preview: C's look to keep rolling

BOSTON When the Boston Celtics step on the floor tonight, their biggest competition won't be the Houston Rockets.

It'll be complacency which can be an extremely difficult foe to beat when you're riding high like the Celtics are these days.

They come into tonight's game against Houston with a four-game winning streak, their longest stretch of success this season.

But helping keep their edge should be the fact that the Rockets have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA as well, winning 10 of their last 13 games.

And on top of that, Boston wouldn't mind a little payback for the 101-89 loss they suffered in Houston earlier this year, a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score might indicate.

"We can't get too comfortable and think we finally arrived," said Paul Pierce. "We just have to be consistent with everything we do; understand why we are winning these games and continue to do that."

Just as they have done in past years, Boston's defense has fueled their success during this current winning streak.

This season, Boston is giving up 96.8 points per game which is the eighth-fewest points allowed. During their four-game winning streak, opponents are just barely cracking the 80-point plateau with the C's giving up 82.8 points per game.

"We have to continue to do that," Pierce added. "It starts in practice and that carries over into the game."

The C's certainly hope so with tip-off just a few hours away. Boston's defense will certainly be a key factor in tonight's game. Here are a few others to keep an eye on as Boston tries to keep on its winning ways against another team that's playing well of late.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Rockets will look to get out and run and run and ... did I mention they like to run? The NBA's youngest team is also its highest scoring club, with Houston averaging a league-high 106 points per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Chandler Parsons: This is a matchup that on paper you would think is lopsidedly in favor of the Celtics. But Pierce has to go at Parsons as if he's Quentin Richardson from a couple years back to avoid a repeat of Houston's win over Boston in November in which Parsons had a near triple-double of 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger is starting to make a name for himself, which means teams will start to pay a lot more attention to the 6-foot-9 rookie. He's been a significant part of the C's current winning streak, and he'll look to keep it going tonight as both a rebounder and scorer around the basket.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has been among the NBA's better teams at forcing turnovers, which has been a major weakness of the Rockets all season. They come into tonight's game averaging a league-high 16.6 turnovers per game while the C's are forcing teams to commit 15.7 turnovers which ranks fourth in the league.

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.