The reigning players of the week will be on display as Paul Pierce leads the Celtcs into battle with Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets.
McGrady has rebounded well from early struggles with Jeff VanGundy. McGrady is averaging 25.7 ppg to go with 6.3 rpg and 6.0 apg. McGrady also gets 1.72 steals per game as he likes to get out and into passing lanes on defense, often going down the floor for a fast break finish. Yao Ming is playing to form with 18.3 ppg and 8.5 rpg while blocking 1.9 shots a contest. Ming is shooting 54.9% from the floor, good for third in the league. Bobby Sura has had a solid all-around year with 10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg and 5.3 apg, as well as 1.26 spg. In six games with the Rockets, Mike James is impressing with 15.8 ppg and 4.7 apg to go with 47.8% shooting and 45.2% 3FG. David Wesley is performing better since going to Houston with 11.5 ppg on 43.3% FG. Jon Barry is doing well off the bench with 7.0 ppg and 2.8 boards and assists a night in a bench role. Dikembe Mutumbo is also doing well off the bench with 4.0 ppg and 4.7 rpg while averaging 14.2 mpg.
The Celtics have already met with Houston in the home leg of the season series. The January 31st game saw the Rockets taking it 97-94. The Rockets were led by Yao Ming who shot 11-15 to finish with 23 points, 8 boards, and 2 blocks. Jon Barry lit us up off the bench with 17 on 7-8 shooting (3-4 3FG). Tracy McGrady struggled with 16 points on 5-14 shooting (2-7 3FG) to go with 5 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals and 4 turnovers. Bob Sura double-doubled with 10 points (2-7 FG) to go with 10 assists, 6 boards, and 2 steals. David Wesley shot 2-11 to finish with 10 points, five boards, and four assists, while also blocking a shot (one of his seven this season). Scott Padgett went for 10 off the bench on 4-5 shooting.
The Celtics were led by Ricky Davis' 10-15 shooting to finish with a game high 24 points. Paul Pierce had 22 on 7-15 shooting to go with 5 boards and 5 assists. Mark Blount shot 6-11 to finish with 14 points and had 4 assists. Raef LaFrentz hit 6-10 to go with 7 boards. Marcus Banks scored 7 in 13 minutes while shooting 3-3 from the field. Kendrick Perkins blocked two shots in 19 minutes of play.
The Celtics blew this game from behind the arc. The Celtics shot 49% from the field, as compared to the Rockets' 46.6% from the field. The Celtics took 77 shots to the Rockets 73. The difference was that the Celtics hit just 3 of 14 from three point land (21.4%), as compared to the Rockets 8-19 (42.1%).
This will be a huge test for the Celtics. The Rockets are one of those teams that are placed among the top championship contenders. If the Celtics can take this one, as they took the Pistons, I think we would have to believe that the Celtics would be among them as well.