NBA Basketball
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Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Boston 32 32 25 31 120
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5:30 PM PT6:30 PM MT7:30 PM CT8:30 PM ET1:30 GMT9:30 6:30 PM MST8:30 PM EST5:30 UAE (+1)02:3020:30 ET7:30 PM CTNaN:� , March 3, 2018
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 18,476

Rockets face Celtics with revenge on their minds

According to STATS
According to STATS

Boston Celtics at Houston Rockets

  1. The Celtics overcame a 24-point halftime deficit to defeat the Rockets 99-98 in Boston on December 28; Al Horford hit the game-winning floating jumper with about :04 to go in the contest. But the Rockets have won five of their last six home games in this series.
  2. Boston recorded a season-high 134 points in its win over the Hornets on Wednesday. Th e Celtics shot 62.1 percent from the field in the victory, including 60.0 (12/20) percent from behind the arc; the overall FG percentage was their highest in any game in 2017-18.
  3. The Rockets went just 9-6 in the month of March last season despite averaging a league-high 116.3 points per game in those contests.
  4. Kyrie Irving had 34 points and five assists against Charlotte on Wednesday. It was his 10th game with 30+ points and 5+ assists this season (6-4); entering this weekend, that was tied for the eighth most such performances by any player in 2017-18.
  5. The Rockets are 7-0 this season when Clint Capela has at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the game. Entering this weekend, he and teammate James Harden (6-0) were the only players whose team was undefeated in games in which they had 20+ points and 10+ boards (minimum 5 G).
  6. Eric Gordon had 22 points in Wednesday's win over the Clippers. It was the eighth time this season that he has come off the bench to pour in 20 or more points. Entering this weekend, that was tied for the third most performances by a bench player this season.

HOUSTON -- Their losses have been so few and far between that the Rockets are rarely in position to circle a game on the schedule and set out for revenge against a particular opponent.

However, the Rockets (48-13) on Saturday will have the opportunity to make amends for one of their small handful of ugly defeats when they host the Boston Celtics at Toyota Center. Houston blew a 26-point lead in falling 99-98 at TD Garden on Dec. 28, the fourth setback in what would develop into a season-long five-game losing skid for the then-shorthanded Rockets.

Houston played that night without starters Chris Paul and Clint Capela and reserve swingman Luc Mbah a Moute. The Rockets nevertheless led 64-38 early in the second half before coming undone, their stellar offense unraveling against the Celtics' suffocating defense soon thereafter.

Currently riding a 14-game winning streak, their second of this season, the Rockets are relatively whole. Reserves Ryan Anderson (hip) and Brandan Wright (knee) will be unavailable against Boston, but Houston for the most part is healthy and playing with supreme confidence.

"Competition. When you're competitive it doesn't matter," Paul said of what is continuing to push the Rockets. "You don't need somebody else to get you going. We've got a lot of competitive people over here, whether it's shooting games, whether it's tic tac toe ... we've got a competitive group. Who cares who we're playing or what's happening? We want to win."

The Rockets would be wise to maintain that approach, for after the rematch with Boston, they face games at Oklahoma City and Toronto next week, against whom Houston is 0-2. The Rockets' recent road trip featured three victories but also ragged, inconsistent performances.

"There's always things we'd like to tinker with, we just don't want to go crazy thinking we can solve everything," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Some of it is you just make shots (or) you miss shots and we're in a period now ... after the All-Star break we're not going to be as sharp as we were before. But we'll give it another couple weeks and we'll see."

The Celtics (44-19) continue to hang their hat on defense, but their offense since the season resumed has been outstanding. Boston ranks second only to the Golden State Warriors in offensive rating (119.5) over the last four games, with a net rating (15.1) that's third in the NBA.

Still, defending Rockets guard James Harden, the MVP frontrunner who averaged 30.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 8.1 assists in February, is paramount. Harden produced a robust 63.6 true shooting percentage last month, his second-best mark in any month this season. Boston is justified in making Harden its primary focus.

"You just try to make it as hard as you can," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "James, his ability to score from behind the arc, drive the ball and then get to the foul line, he's as good as anybody. You can't count on one guy to do that; you have to throw as many bodies at him as possible. And he's going to make some plays."

Updated March 2, 2018

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