The Celtics have an opportunity to extend their season-best win streak to five Friday, but only if they can figure out a way to slow the Rockets' potent offensive onslaught.
The Rockets are currently averaging a NBA-best 106 points per game through their first 36 games and already dropped 101 on the Celtics in a home victory earlier this season. Then again, this Boston team has shown an entirely different level of defensive bite lately, allowing only one opponent to break 95 points in their past five games. Also helping the Celtics' chances is the fact that the Rockets are coming off their worst offensive showing of the season after managing only 79 points against the Hornets.
But if the Celtics are to earn the series split, they'll have to implement a better plan of attack than what they used last time. When these teams first met on Dec. 14, Boston poured all their efforts into slowing James Harden and Jeremy Lin, which allowed Greg Smith to sink 8 of 9 buckets off the bench for an easy 20 points.
Smith hasn't come close to reaching that output since then but the Rockets still have their fair share of complimentary weapons to burn Boston, including Patrick Patterson. Patterson has been particularly effective with his curbed playing time since returning from his foot injury, averaging 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds while getting only 20.8 minutes per game.
The Celtics will likely look to counter Patterson with the equally hot Jared Sullinger. The rookie rebounding machine has produced double figure scoring in five of his last nine games and is averaging nine rebounds off the bench throughout the first half of January.
Tipoff for this East-West showdown is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET at TD Garden.