The Boston Celtics head into Houston coming off a 121-114 home overtime win against division rival Philadelpha 76ers. At 7-3 over the last ten, Boston is now 20-13 on the sesaon and on the heels of the 76ers and Raptors in the Atlantic Division.
Despite the recent positive trend, the Rockets rank in the lower half in scoring and turnovers, while 27th in the league rebounding. A solid defense ranked in the top third in the league keeps the Rockets in most games. Boston ranks 13th in scoring and fourth in fewest points allowed. Although not having any player average more than seven rebounds per game, Boston is 11th in rebounding and their ball control is among the best at fifth in fewest turnovers committed.
Without a doubt, the Rockets are lead by MVP candidate Harden, who is averaging a league best 32 points per game. He can also be a playmakier, avereraging 8.4 assists per game while hauling in nearly six rebounds. Clint Capela could give the Celtics troubles on the boards, averaging 12 rebounds to go along with 17 per game. Veteran Chris Paul tandems with Harden in the backcourt, averaging 15.6 points and eight assists. PJ Tucker is not a huge scoring threat, but could hurt Boston from beyond the arc, where he is hitting 41 percent for the season.
The Celtics can score in many different ways through several players, lead by Kyrie Irving's 22.7 points per game. Jayson Tatum is contributing 16.8 per contest, while Marcus Morris and veteran Al Horford add 14.8 and 12.3, respectively. Connecting from beyond the three-point line is a specialty for the Celtics, as Irving, Tatum and Morris all hit at rates above 40 pecent.
The teams have split the last six meetings over the past few seasons. Houston will likely be a narrow home favorite and are 11-5 at home. Boston is one of the better road teams in the NBA at 9-8. Expect a very entertaining, high scoring game that is close into the fourth quarter. At that moment, expect Harden to take control of the game, leading to the Rockets to a late win to keep hold of the lead in their division.