HOUSTON – When it comes to playing good defense, there’s plenty of data Celtics coach Brad Stevens can rely on to give him a feel for where his team stands.
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A big part of being a good defensive team is being in the right place at the right time, which for a team with as much length defensively as the Celtics have, leaves them covering lots of real estate.
Boston will need that level of defense tonight against a Houston Rockets, who are riding a 14-game winning streak that has vaulted them to the top of the NBA standings.
Indeed, Stevens believes Boston’s defense at its best, has the look of being every were, all the time.
“We have a deceptiveness to us,” Stevens said. “We're long, we have our arms out, we're in a stance, we're quick to react...it's always kind of been when that shot goes up, do we have five guys engaged in the rebound and are our guards flying over the top to get them. You go back through some of our best possessions of the year, we are active, we're taking away the first option, we're taking away the second option with our effort and we fly in for rebounds. Easier said than done against a team like Houston the whole time because the first and second options are hard to take away."
Here are five other under-the-radar storylines from Saturday's showdown in Houston:
TATUM COMES OF AGE
Jayson Tatum has played with a maturity beyond his years, often praised for how he handled himself as a teenager in the NBA. Those days are behind him now as the now-20-year-old Tatum celebrates his birthday tonight.
When the Celtics knocked off the Houston Rockets in December, one of the keys in Boston’s upset win was Marcus Morris. Well, there’s a chance he may wind up being even more impactful tonight. Back then, Morris had a sore left knee which required him to play limited minutes. In the win over Houston, Morris had 10 points – all coming in the second half which is when the Celtics made their miraculous comeback. Morris played less than 20 minutes in that game, something we seldom see these days with Morris logging at least 20 minutes played in each of Boston’s last nine games.
DANIEL THEIS RETURNS
A hamstring injury kept Daniel Theis out Wednesday against Charlotte, but it won’t keep him out of the lineup tonight. Barring a last-minute change, Theis is scheduled to return to the Celtics lineup tonight against Houston. There are plenty of headliners for the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets, but its role players like Theis that could mean the difference between winning and losing.
HAYWARD'S NOT COMING BACK THIS SEASON...THIS IS A RECORDING
Brad Stevens might be hauling NBA max player money if he got a dollar for every time he has been asked about Gordon Hayward returning to action this season. “He’s not playing this year; I don’t know what else to say,” Stevens said. “Is he progressing? Yes. But he’s a super-long way away, from even being in a one-on-(zero) workout where he’s cutting.”