The Boston Celtics are trending in the right direction as they inch closer to the remaining regular season games and the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics progressed in the right direction after defeating the Phoenix Suns, and they will now try to build off that win in their next scrimmage against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday evening.
After their first loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder after a long lay-off, the Celtics bounced back and defeated the Suns in what was a great team win led by Jaylen Brown’s team-high 21 points and Jayson Tatum’s team-high nine rebounds.
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There were many noticeable and important improvements that the Celtics touched upon in their second scrimmage of the restart, the main three being defending in general but more so the perimeter, scoring, and communicating with each other around the court.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens recently expressed how his team needs to do a better job of talking and being more vocal with each other while on the floor, especially considering the NBA’s bubble environment which is essentially silent compared to a game at the TD Garden.
In doing so, the Celtics defended quite well throughout the game, holding the Suns to only connecting on 10 of 38 shots from behind the arc – nine of those attempts came from Devin Booker alone who would finish his night by only draining three.
The Celtics will need to do an even better job of defending and not biting on the inside play, which in turn will leave a shooter open for an uncontested shot, especially against the Rockets who just saw a 26 point performance off the bench from Ben McLemore that included him connecting on six of his seven 3-point shot attempts.
James Harden, one of the best scorers in the NBA, is also off to a hot start since the scrimmages began, where he produced 31 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, and made five 3-pointers to accompany the stellar bench performance from McLemore in their last game.
Defense will be the most important element for the Celtics against a Rockets team that has shooters all over the court. Harden, McLemore, Eric Gordon, and Austin Rivers are all capable of lighting up the scoreboard for the Rockets.
Not to forget the ultimate X-factor for the Rockets in Russell Westbrook, who seems to have made a full recovery after testing positive for COVID-19 and has rejoined his team in the Orlando bubble. It’s still unknown if he will play in this scrimmage or not on Tuesday evening.
It’s going to take a total team effort for the Boston Celtics to come out victorious over the Rockets, which is going to be a great test for them as the latest ESPN power rankings ironically has the Celtics one spot ahead of the Rockets.
To do this, the entire team needs to be on the same page. The aforementioned improved communication needs to be solid once again, as well as distributing the ball and making the extra pass for confident scoring opportunities, which the Celtics did a nice job of doing against the Suns.
Something I noticed in the previous two scrimmages is that at times players were overcompensating and trying too hard, which leads to making mistakes and mental errors. One thing the Celtics can’t afford down the stretch of the season or a series is making mental mistakes and errors, especially when you consider that Gordon Hayward will be missing time in the playoffs come September and what seems like Kemba Walker’s game-to-game, day-to-day status regarding the issues in his right knee.
With Walker back in the lineup, the team is more balanced, which makes for a stronger rotation and second unit. Any positive scoring production from the bench is going to be needed for the Celtics to overcome the Rockets and continue to trend in the right direction heading into the regular season seeding games and the playoffs.
The handful of rookies that the Celtics have been utilizing during this weird time in the NBA should fare well up against the Rockets, who are a pretty evenly comparable team to the Celtics in some ways more than others.
Grant Williams has been solid all year in the multiple different scenarios that he’s been thrown into. Tremont Waters continues to impress and improve with every chance he’s been given for the Celtics. Romeo Langford could serve to provide consistent points from all over the court, along with Carsen Edwards, who the Celtics are hoping and praying for that he’ll find the same rhythm he had in the Summer League when they awarded him a contract.
As previously mentioned, this scrimmage against the Rockets is going to be a great test for the Boston Celtics during the restart, but they have been trending upwards all season this year.