After a 102-91 win over the Charlotte Hornets last night, the Boston Celtics (28-10) welcome James Harden and the Houston Rockets (25-7) tonight at TD Garden. The Rockets are coming off a 112-107 loss on Christmas Day to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Celtics have a tough task ahead of them, as James Harden is considered, by some, as the best offensive player in the league. He leads the NBA in scoring (32.4 PPG), and has also made an NBA-best 136 three-pointers. Harden not only can score, but has an amazing ability to pass the ball, averaging 9.2 assists per game.
However, the Celtics may catch a break tonight. Harden is usually accompanied by All-Star point guard Chris Paul and one of the best center’s in the league, Clint Capella. Both Paul and Capella will be out tonight vs Boston, as Paul continues to deal with an adductor strain (he has missed the last three contests due to the injury) and Capella has been diagnosed with an orbital fracture. Houston’s leading rebounder (11.2) had also missed time with a left heel contusion before this current injury. Forward Luc Mbah a Moute will also miss tonight’s game with a shoulder injury.
Head Coach Mike D’Antoni talked about how his team’s defense will change without having Capella, Paul, and Mbah a Moute, three of the team’s best defenders, out on the floor.
“It’s tough. We’ve slipped a little bit. We have to get back on track. Nobody likes to lose. But it’s part of the league. You will go through periods like this, but we have to do the best we can and get those guys healthy.”
Houston’s offense has been one of the NBA’s best this season, as they lead the league in both scoring and three-pointers made. Boston’s defense, at times, has been stellar but they will be missing Jaylen Brown (knee) and Semi Ojeleye (back), two defenders that Head Coach Brad Stevens has counted on a lot this season. Trying to guard Harden without them tonight will be a difficult task for the Celtics.
“Very few teams [can guard him]. There’s a reason why he’s so good. He uses his body well and has tremendous skill. He seeks the matchup he wants. You just try to guard him as hard as you can without fouling, which is easier said than done. He picks his time. He’s pretty impressive.”