Related Tags: The Boston Celtics
Two of the best guards in the league were matched up in Houston on Thursday night when Kyrie Irving and the Celtics visited red hot James Harden and the Rockets. Harden was fresh off of his 41 point Christmas Day performance against OKC, and he didn't slow down against Boston. Harden led all scorers with 45 points, shooting 9-18 from the field, and getting to the free throw line 17 times.
Although Harden is the hottest player in the league right now, the contributions of teammate Clint Capela can’t be emphasized enough. Capela’s stat lines for his last three games reads 24 Points and 18 Rebounds (HOU v. BOS), 16 Points and 23 Rebounds HOU v. OKC), and 21 Points and 23 Rebounds (HOU v. SA). Capela is averaging a career best 12.5 rebounds this year, and has continued to improve the pick and roll with Harden.
The Rockets have benefited from the massive games that Harden and Capela are consistently putting in over the past 10 games. Houston struggled to get the gears churning early in the season, but have been able to stop the bleeding, and begin the climb back into the thick of things in the West, currently sitting in 7th.
As for the Celtics, this loss brings back question marks about the ability of this roster. Second year forward Jayson Tatum scored just 4 points despite registering 29 minutes against Houston. Al Horford had his best game since coming back from injury, dropping 15 points on 7-12 shooting, but it was not enough to hang with Houston. Kyrie had a so-so game, scoring 23 and assisting 11 times.
Kyrie played well, but playing well is not enough for this Celtics team to get a win. On Christmas Day, it took 40 points from Irving to take out the 76ers. If Boston are going to be a threat in the much improved East, they will need a consistent scorer behind Kyrie. Brown, Rozier and Tatum all seem to be a year or two away from being able to provide night after night, and Gordon Hayward isn’t back to his potential either.
Boston will be tested before the new year, playing a defensive Grizzlies team before going to San Antonio on the last day of the year. After losing 4 of the last 6, it will be essential to Boston to win at least one of these tough games.