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Game 67 Preview: Celtics at Rockets

Oh, goodness. The Rockets have won four in a row. Crazy. The Celtics come into town riding a two game winning streak, picking up two quality homes wins against the Knicks and Pistons. The Rockets, on the other hand, have won two big games in a row, and as it has been for the last week and for the rest of the season, this is a must-win.

The Celtics are 43-24, but don't let that fool you. This team is not a championship contender anymore. Danny Ainge sold this team's soul to get Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and the team is paying for it now. Injuries, especially to KG, have hurt them this season.But, they're perfectly healthy again and ready for the Rockets.

The last time these teams met, the Rockets won a thriller in Boston, and really propelled themselves out of a dark place. The team had been slumping and needed a signature win early in the season. At this point, every game for the Rockets needs to be a signature win. This game is like the largest size available at Cold Stone Creamery: Gotta Have It.

Matchups:

PG: Aaron Brooks vs. Rajon Rondo:

Rondo may look like an alien, but he truly is a remarkable player. He's either the Celtics best player, or their most valuable. I can't make up my mind. He's a terrific passer and plays solid defense. He averages 14/10/4 and over 2 steals per game. He's also underrated in mind. His one weakness is his jump shot: it's uglier than Sarah Jessica Parker.

Brooks isn't the point guard Rondo is, but he's a much better scorer. He can also, you know, hit a jump shot. Or three pointer. Or seven. This should be a fun matchup.


Advantage: Even

SG: Kevin Martin vs. Ray Allen:

Jesus Shuttlesworth has such a silky smooth three pointer that the dude could shoot from inside a phone booth and feel comfortable. That being said, all of his stats are down from last year. Truth is, he's getting old. But he can still shoot. I remember when he was with the Sonics with Rashard Lewis. They could beat you from the outside all day long, and you couldn't foul either one of them.

Martin just seems to disappear at times with the Rockets, but that doesn't make him any less great. As Xiane noted in his recap from the Grizzlies game, Kevin scored 18 of the most quiet points I've ever seen. He's really figured out his role with this team. Can't wait to see him with Yao.

Advantage: Rockets, slightly

SF: Trevor Ariza vs. Paul Pierce:

More of a defensive battle for Trevor, obviously. When Truth wants to take over a game, he can do it with the best of them. He's physical, smart, has a great jumper, and is clutch. His defense is also not to be taken lightly. His stats (18/4/3) don't show it, but he's a pretty well-rounded player.

Trevor will have his hands full on defense, so hopefully he won't worry too much about offense (pretty please?).

Advantage: Celtics

PF: Luis Scola vs. Kevin Garnett:

Ravaged by injuries, KG just doesn't look the same anymore. He still has the intensity and fire he's always had, but it's different. He's still getting his 14/7, but those numbers used to be more like 20/10. He's about 70% the player he used to be, according to those stats.

Once again, Scola=beast. Sorry, KG, but some things are impossible. Like beating Luis Scola right now.

Advantage: Rockets. Yeah, I said it.

C: Chuck Hayes vs. Kendrick Perkins:

I always have a tough time with Chuck's matchup. I know he's good, and his contributions don't always show up on the stat sheet, but his value is incalculable.

Perkins is like a taller, more heavy Chuck. Unlike Chuck, he looks really scary and I feel like he's going to eat me if he gets too hungry. I don't like that, but 11 points and 8 rebounds per game is not to be scoffed at. Still...

Advantage: Even, maybe Celtics slightly

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Bench:

Celtics: They'll go 7 deep on the Celtics bench. Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, Marquis Daniels, Shelden Williams, and Michael Finley might all get time on the court.

Rockets: Sleepy's been relying on his bench less and less recently. Lowry limped around last game, though he's likely going to play. Shane has transitioned well so far, but Bud and Andersen are now X-factors. I don't know what they'll give us anymore, and that's partly Sleepy's fault and partly their own. Rookies hit walls. It happens. Oh, and Jordan Hill is giving us gorilla dunks that may one day get Dave to forget that Joey Dorsey fellow.

Advantage: Celtics, but it's close

Injuries:

Celtics: None, of course, since they're playing us

Rockets: Besides Yao?

Prediction: Rockets gotta have it, so I'll say they win by 5. Worked out last time.

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