Five reasons why C's, Rockets may meet in NBA Finals

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Five reasons why C's, Rockets may meet in NBA Finals

HOUSTON -- Take a look at the NBA standings and you’ll see that Boston and Houston have been at or near the top most of this season.
Based on their play, no one should be shocked if Saturday night’s game between the Celtics and Rockets serves as a prelude to a potential NBA Finals showdown.
The Celts have won with their defense, which, despite a string of sub-par performances, still ranks among the best in the NBA. Houston has been an offensive power all season with its use of the 3-point shot.
But what gives both teams hope that they can be one of the last two teams standing is how each has performed on the side of the floor where they have been less dominant.
Boston’s offense has stared to show signs that it can be really special. The Celtics come into Saturday’s game having scored a season-high 134 points in a 28-point win against Charlotte.
And the Rockets’ defense is just outside of being top-10 worthy, which, when combined with a lethal offense, shows why Houston's rise toward the top of the NBA standings record-wise, is not all that complicated.
And that’s just the beginning.
Here are five more reasons why Saturday’s game between Boston and Houston may be a prelude to the NBA Finals this year.



When it comes to something like a new-look NBA Finals, you can rest assured if there’s any historical connection between the two teams we’ll hear about it . . . a lot. That holds true between Boston and Houston, two teams that aren’t necessarily bitter rivals but do have some history.
Boston met the Rockets in the 1986 Finals and finished them off in six games. The two met five years earlier in the Finals with an identical result: Boston wins in six.


It really is a shame that we only get to see James Harden and Marcus Smart go at each other twice a year. To see them go at each other at least four times in the Finals . . . that alone makes this something we should all want to see.
Harden is having another MVP-like season statistically and his team is winning an incredible rate, which -- for a change -- makes him the odds-on leader to win it this season.
And Smart’s defense, always good, has been exceptional against the best and in the biggest of moments.
The two offensive foul calls Smart got against Harden when these two met Dec. 28, is the kind of stuff that a player like Harden won’t forget about anytime soon.
And Smart will be looking to do his part to show what he did just a few days after Christmas, was not a fluke.


While most of us -- media and fans alike -- have anointed Golden State as the team coming out of the West this season, the Rockets have done enough so far to be considered more than just the next-best thing to Golden State. Houston has reeled off 14 straight wins and currently has a slim, half-game lead over the Warriors for the best record in the West. More telling is how the Rockets have already won the head-to-head series 2-1, which means if they finish in a tie for the best record, Houston will be the top seed.


We have seen Stevens’ coaching acumen on display in the regular season and in the playoffs, and he has been good. So the next logical step in his growth as a leader is to see how he handles himself when the stakes are as high as they can possibly be. And they don’t get any higher than the NBA Finals. He’s regarded as one of the NBA’s best basketball minds, but until he wins an NBA title there’s going to be a little bit of doubt in the minds of some as to just how good he really is as a coach.  


Question him for his flat-Earth comments, or any other head-scratching narrative Kyrie Irving has spoken about lately. But the man’s decision to get out of Cleveland when he did, is making him look like a freakin’ genius.
The Cavs weren't very good with the pieces they acquired as part of the trading away of Irving. And now, just weeks after hitting the reset button on their season by jettisoning out some players (Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder) who weren’t helping them win much, they’re back to where they were before making all the changes -- not winning much.

Meanwhile, Irving had another All-Star season and his new team has been among the best in the league all season. For Irving to go back to the Finals and Cleveland continue to falter  . . . maybe the earth is flatter than you think?



NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

1:13 - The Celtics came away with a 105-100 win in Portland on Friday night. Find out why Chris Mannix is calling this the best Celtics win of the season.

6:05 - Mannix discusses details about Kyrie Irving’s ‘minimally invasive’ procedure on his knee and what his level of concern is with A. Sherrod Blakely and Gary Tanguay.

10:03 - Michael Holley and Tom Curran discuss what NFL players, including Devin McCourty, are doing beyond the gridiron by being active in criminal justice reform discussions held at Harvard this week.



Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

When you think about Marcus Morris these days, big-time scoring immediately comes to mind. 

But in Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over Portland, Morris’ contributions went beyond the game-high 30 points he dropped on the Blazers.

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“Coach (Brad Stevens) is doing a great job of getting me the ball in my spots and my teammates are finding me,” Morris told reporters after the win. “And I’m just coming through.”

He’s providing strong play and a tremendous presence at both ends of the floor which has been critical to the team navigating some choppy waters with a number of regular rotation players – namely Kyrie Irving – out with injuries.

“One thing is, he’s healthy,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the sore knee that limited Morris earlier this season and at times forced him to miss games. “And the other is, he’s just more confident, he’s playing very assertive. He’s playing great right now, in a really good rhythm.”

Said Stevens: “That’s been him (Morris). As he’s continued to feel better; I think physically he’s felt as good as he’s felt. He’s comfortable in our system and we need him to score. If you’re a basketball player and your job is to score, that’s a pretty good job.”

And it’s one that even with all the injuries Boston has played through, few envisioned him being such an integral part of the offense. 

Morris’ calling card prior to arriving in Boston was his defense. 

But Morris has made it known that his focus on the floor is to be as complete a player as possible.

“I’m not trying to just limit myself to just being that scorer,” Morris said. “Also, on the defensive end I think I’m bringing it; my defense has gotten a lot better, especially my on-the-ball defense. I’m trying to be that all-around player and not just an offensive player … but I can score.”