Blakely's Celtics-Rockets preview

Blakely's Celtics-Rockets preview
March 6, 2012, 4:30 pm
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BOSTON Lately Boston has run through opponents that aren't exactly the upper crust of the NBA. But at this point, the Celtics (19-17) will pick up any crumbs of success they can get their hands on.

But as much as they have enjoyed their current four-game winning streak, the C's understand that this time of year . . . you gotta be greedy.

Up next for the Celtics will be Houston (21-17), a team that's currently trending in the opposite direction with three straight losses.

While the Rockets are indeed a step up from some of the C's most recent opponents, the Celtics' grind-it-out approach has to remain a constant regardless of the challenger.

"Every game for us, we know it's going to be a hard game," Boston's Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com. "We're going to come in; we're going to fight every game."

That approach has worked of late, and the C's will certainly look to keep it going tonight against the Rockets.

But there are other factors that are sure to come into play as the C's try to extend their winning streak to five in a row against a reeling Houston team coached by former Celtics great Kevin McHale.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- Although the Celtics are scoring more with Brandon Bass in the starting lineup, the increase in scoring has a lot to do with their defense. Boston is forcing more turnovers, which has allowed them to get out in transition and get easy baskets. For the season, Boston is forcing 15.1 turnovers per game. During their current four-game winning streak, the C's have increased their forced turnover number to 17.3 per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Rajon Rondo vs. Kyle Lowry: While Lowry doesn't have the kind of media sizzle of New York's Jeremy Lin or New Jersey's Deron Williams, Rondo's defense of Lowry will have to be good. Lost in the Celtics' recent run of success has been the fact that all but one of the four point guards Rondo has faced (with the exception being Cleveland's Kyrie Irving) since returning from the All-Star break, has had a sub-par performance against the C's. But Lowry is a different kind of point guard from those guys. In some ways, he has the kind of all-around game that we see in Rondo. Look at his numbers. Lowry is having arguably his best NBA season, averaging 15.8 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- The role of Ray Allen continues to fluctuate from one game to another. Some nights, he'll be looked upon to drive more to the basket. Other nights, the NBA's all-time 3-point king will be needed to shoot more. And then there was the win over the New York Knicks on Sunday, a game in which Allen was more of a decoy who set lots of picks. It'll be interesting to see how the Rockets approach defending Allen, and how Allen and the C's respond.

STAT TO TRACK -- If you see a 3-pointer go in tonight, cherish the moment because there probably won't be many. The Celtics defend the 3-point shot better than any team in the NBA, with opponents shooting just 30.2 percent on threes against them. The Houston Rockets are literally right behind Boston in 3-point defense, with their opponents connecting on 31 percent of their long-distance tries.

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