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Rockets Look to Rebound With Super Small Ball Lineup vs Celtics as 2.5-Point Favorites

Houston Rockets
Will the Rockets' super small ball approach be successful against the red-hot Celtics? Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr).
  • The Houston Rockets host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday (Feb. 11, 9:30 pm ET)
  • Houston is 4-2 since adopting a super small ball approach
  • Boston comes in riding a seven-game winning streak

The Houston Rockets host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday (Feb. 11, 9:30 pm ET), looking to halt the Celts seven-game winning streak.

Houston has dropped back-to-back games, but that didn’t stop online sportsbooks from opening them as 2.5-point favorites.

Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Boston Celtics +2.5 (-115) +113 Over 231.0 (-110)
Houston Rockets -2.5 (-105) -133 Under 231.0 (-110)

Odds taken Feb. 10th

They’ve covered in just four of their last seven and are a disappointing 13-13 ATS at home this season. Boston meanwhile, has been a road warrior ATS beating the number at a 60% clip away from home.

The Small Ball Experiment

The Rockets latest setback, a one-point loss versus the Jazz, was the sixth straight game in which they’ve rolled out a super small line-up. No player over 6’7″ saw the floor for Houston, and only once in their past six games has a Rockets big man seen any playing time, and that was for a grand total of three minutes.

The move to a full-time small ball approach started with four straight victories and was facilitated by the trade of Clint Capela to the Hawks. It creates spacing on offense, flexibility on defense and gives Houston’s two biggest offensive weapons, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, additional room to operate.

The trade off is that they’re at a significant disadvantage on the glass and in the paint, and that was the difference in their blowout loss to Phoenix last Friday. In that outing, the Rockets were out rebounded 55-40 and outscored by 14 in the paint. They’ve lost the rebounding battle in all six games with this new approach and that trend is likely to continue against the red-hot Celtics.

Celtics Present Bad Matchups

Boston has lost just once in the last three weeks, a stretch that includes wins over the Lakers, Heat and 76ers. They’ll have a significant size advantage over Houston, but unlike most teams, their big men are extremely athletic.

Even starting center Daniel Theis is capable of guarding multiple positions, and their extra length should lead to plenty of second chance opportunities on offense. The Celtics rank 7th in the NBA in offensive rebounding and should feast on the glass versus the Rockets.

Also working in their favor is the elite production they’ve been getting from Jayson Tatum. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week is averaging 26 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists over his last 10, while knocking down 49% of his field goals and 44% of his threes.

Tatum failed to live up to expectations in his sophomore season, but he’s morphed into one of the league’s best players this season. He was recently named to his first all-star team and his net rating is higher than Harden, Westbrook and LeBron James.

Back Boston on the Road

The Celtics are playing their best ball of the season and are the healthiest they’ve been at any point during the 2019-20 campaign. They excel defensively, ranking second in points allowed and fifth in opponent shooting percentage, and have multiple bodies capable of sticking to Harden and Westbrook.

At the other end, they should get plenty of favorable looks down low and an abundance of second chance opportunities. Houston’s small ball strategy can be effective for short stretches, but over the course of 48 minutes, Boston will wear them down.

Pick: Celtics +2.5 (-115)

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