I had the opportunity to attend Houston’s December 27 match-up against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
When I arrived at 5:45 pm, nearly two hours before tip-off, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Josh Christopher were shooting three-pointers. I took a seat at courtside, ready to record my pre-game observations.
For reference, no more than two Rockets players practiced at the same time.
Coach John Lucas was on the court for the duration of warm-ups. When not assisting players, he was joking around with a big smile on his face. I went over to introduce myself and the lively coach greeted me with a friendly handshake.
Fifteen minutes later, Garrison Matthews came out of the tunnel to practice his three-point shot. Though he went through a cold spell, his accuracy improved during the game. He finished the night shooting 2-for-6 from beyond the three-point line.
Houston’s rising star, Jalen Green, arrived to practice free-throws. He flashed a smile in my direction after making his first attempt, noticing that my phone was recording the action. Coach Lucas handed him a basketball between each shot.
After a streak of successful free-throws, Green took a break on the opposite side of the court. I walked over to congratulate him on his progression this season. He said something along the lines of “Thanks man, I appreciate that” in a cool, sincere tone.
Kevin Porter Jr. came out next and practiced his mid-range shot from the outside of the key. He looked relaxed, swinging his arms loosely between shots.
Then, Bruno Fernando came to practice moves from inside of the key.
Alperen Segun and Boban Marjanovic walked onto the court next. Marjanovic practiced moves on a trainer, which included fade-aways and floating lay-ups.
At one point, Marjanovic comedically stacked numerous basketballs on a spectator.
The highlight of pre-game warm-ups involved Martin and Marjanovic. Martin swished a basketball with his left hand from three-point range. Afterwards, Marjanovic playfully swished a three-pointer over Martin.
With tip-off soon approaching, the entirety of Houston’s squad entered from the tunnel. A series of energetic dunks and an impressive half-court shot showed readiness for their opponents.
The game was competitive until the end of the third quarter, as Boston’s comfortable lead continued to increase.
The Celtics defeated the Rockets by 24 points. The dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 77 points.
It was expected that the Rockets’ young, inexperienced core would be challenged by a top franchise in the league. As of December 29, the Celtics hold the best record in the NBA this season.
Though Houston is off to a slow start this year, the team brought a positive presence to Boston and showed signs of great potential. There appears to be a sense of camaraderie between the players and coaching staff.