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Rockets vs. Celtics game preview: down years for recent powers

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What’s worse: underperforming or tanking?

Tanking can be freeing. The stakes are low. You’re expected to lose. There’s something quite Zen about watching your team and not placing stock in the result.

Underperforming comes with an incredible amount of frustration. The team isn’t playing as well as you would like. It’s always difficult to understand why. If there was one reason, it could be addressed (with the players, through game strategy, a trade, etc.). But usually, there are several reasons that conspire to throw a potential contender off course.

Rockets fans have dealt with some frustrating seasons over the last couple of years, but none were necessarily underperforming. The best example in recent years is the 2015-16 Rockets, who were coming off a conference finals appearance and had extended Kevin McHale. The Rockets started 4-7, fired McHale, and finished 41-41. Daryl Morey cleaned house, and the Rockets were able to rebound quickly.

The Boston Celtics are underperforming. After five years of playoff basketball, including three conference finals appearances, Boston is 23-25 and in 8th place in the East. Yes, fourth place is within striking distance. But so is 10th. If the team doesn’t pull it together, will Dany Ainge move on from Brad Stevens? Will the team make a decision about whether they want both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown or if they should trade one? Is there another scapegoat that needs to go? These sorts of decisions are the consequence of underperforming.

For Houston, John Wall is questionable but should be returning soon.

Tip-off is at 6:30pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest