The Rockets offense is strong. So is the recent Celtics defense. The two strengths collide on Friday evening.
Despite only scoring 79 points in Wednesday's loss to the Hornets, the Rockets still currently lead the NBA in scoring, averaging 106 points a game. However, they also lead the league with 16.6 turnovers a game.
That plays into the Celtics' recent defensive strengths.
Boston is currently riding a four-game winning streak. During this string of victories, the Celtics are holding opponents to 82.8 points a game. It should be viewed as no coincidence that this has coincided with the comeback of former Longhorn Avery Bradley to the lineup. Bradley's an extremely strong on-ball defender. In his five games since his return (including the first game that was a loss), the Celtics are giving up 84.8 points a game. Keep in mind, that's far better than the top statistical defenses in the league, Memphis and Indiana, who give up 89.1 points a game, albeit over the course of the entire season. Also, even with this strong defensive streak, for the season, the Celtics give up over 96 points a contest, meaning the defensive improvement has been massive.
The last time these two teams faced each other on December 14, Houston's offense won out 101-89. The Rockets pretty much just did their thing on offense, running and running and running some more. With the defense geared to stop him, James Harden didn't have his best shooting night at 6-17, but he still finished with 21 points. That was the last time Harden did not score 25 points in a game. One of the keys for the Rockets will be to up the tempo and to have quick ball movement to get out of the Celtics' trapping defense.