Everyone talked about how the Celtics, although improved, were going to have a rough start to 2015 because of the gauntlet of a schedule they faced over the first ten games. The goal was to finish at least 5-5; Boston finished 6-4.
Boston played the second night of a back-to-back, and on a night that the reeling Rockets desperately needed a win, the Celtics won in all phases and completely overwhelmed the 2014 Western Conference Finalists. One of the strengths of this Boston team is depth, which is going to be big on back-to-backs and three-out-of-four nights, an inevitable evil of the NBA schedule. With three straight wins versus the Hawks, Thunder, and now the Rockets, the Celtics showed that not only can they play with upper-echelon NBA teams, they can beat them on the road with their excellent defense and rebounding.
The first quarter was back-and-forth, but the Rockets held the lead 28-24 when the quarter came to an end. The second quarter was more of the same, but this time the Celtics won the quarter by four and the teams went to the locker rooms tied, 55-55. In the third quarter, one team came out fired up and the other basically remained in the locker room. Boston won the third, 32-13, and that was it for the Rockets. The Celtics extended the lead to 29 before the Rockets finally woke up and started playing better, albeit against the Celtics rookies and deep bench players.
Marcus Smart, who only scored four points, had a rare game where he was totally dominant but didn't need to score to prove it. Smart finished with nine rebounds, six assists, five steals, and he was an amazing +30 for the night, meaning the Celtics were excellent and completely controlled play when he was on the floor. Maybe someone should tell Russell Westbrook that it isn't about scoring 30 every night, it's about playing excellent defense and doing the things your team needs to win on a consistent basis. Isaiah Thomas, who started yet again, continued his excellent play, scoring 23 points and adding six assists, three rebounds, two steals, and he only committed one turnover in 24 minutes of play. Thomas' offensive ability is special, and although he does gamble on defense at times, he does hustle and get into passing lanes, so the rumors of his defensive deficiencies are over exaggerated. Jae Crowder once again did everything for the starting lineup, finishing the night with 16 points, three rebounds, two steals, and a +24
Avery Bradley provided a scoring a defensive punch off the bench, finishing the night with 21 points on 8-14 shooting while giving the Rockets guards all they could handle defensively. Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, and Evan Turner also had strong nights off the bench, providing a scoring, rebounding, and defensive punch that most teams in the NBA don't possess. Boston simply has the most depth and the best bench in basketball, and that advantage is going to drive them to the playoffs this year. The Celtics defense has also been incredible, forcing 22 turnovers and making 16 steals. If they continue to play this way, they'll win the Atlantic and most likely be a top four seed in the Eastern Conference. Boston continues their Western Conference run with a game tomorrow night versus the Dallas Mavericks, but this time the Celtics will be home.
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