Rockets aim to end losing streak in game with Celtics
BOSTON — The battered and bruised Houston Rockets bring a three-game losing streak into Thursday night’s TD Garden game against the Boston Celtics.
The Rockets (25-7) learned Wednesday that big man Clint Capela will miss at least the next two games after suffering a fractured right orbital bone when struck by a Steven Adams elbow in Monday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Obviously, Clint has been in and out of the lineup, Luc (Mbah a Moute) as well), so you take guys that are versatile that create opportunities defensively that we’re missing,” said MVP candidate (favorite?) James Harden. “But we’ll be all right. It’s a grind period right now — dropped three in a row — but it’s a long season.”
Capela, averaging 14.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game while leading the NBA with a 69.1 percent field goal percentage, returned to the lineup Monday after missing three of the previous four games with a heel contusion. He played while limping Monday and the eye socket injury will also allow the heel to … well, heal.
The Houston injury situation has been a growing saga.
Chris Paul has been ruled out of Thursday’s game with a groin strain. The hope was he could play either Thursday or in Friday night’s game at Washington — not in both.
“I’m not confident,” coach Mike D’Antoni told the Houston Chronicle. “He wants to (play). Trying to hold him back is hard. We want to make sure he’s 100 percent. I’m confident against the Lakers at home (on Monday) he’ll be back. I’m hopeful for one of these two games, but I don’t want to go there yet.”
Talking about Capela, D’Antoni said, “He’s the one guy that gives us that weapon on lobs and dunks and rim protection. “He’s the one vertical (spacing) guy. We can do it without him. We need to do it. But that’s kind of like the straw that breaks the camel’s back. When you have Chris and Luc (shoulder) out, that’s three of your top guys and three of your best defenders. That makes it tough.
“One of the reasons we had so much success last year was how he improved from the year before to last year, and we made another jump this year because of how he improved from last year. He’s been a key. He has his fingerprints on almost everything we do offensively and defensively as far as the improvement.”
The Rockets were snug in their hotel beds in frigid Boston Wednesday night, while the Celtics, playing without the injured Jaylen Brown, handled the Charlotte Hornets in North Carolina to go to 28-10.
The win brought the Celtics to an even 6-6 in their last 12 games.
The Celtics outscored the Hornets 26-16 in the fourth quarter Wednesday and got 20 points and 10 rebounds from Al Horford, 21 points and eight assists from Kyrie Irving and great contributions off the bench from guards Terry Rozier (15 points) and Shane Larkin (11).
Rookie Jayson Tatum had 18 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots, playing beyond his 19 years in the fourth quarter. He had 10 of his 18 in the fourth.
Asked after his own ninth straight 20-point game about how Tatum has grown as a rookie, Irving said, “Tremendously. The patience that he has, understanding what we’re trying to accomplish and knowing that when the game has to slow down, the spots that he needs to be in, the spots that he can take advantage of and being able to have the confidence to be put in that position. He’s taking full advantage of it, so he just wants to continue to grow and learn like he’s been doing.”
Said coach Brad Stevens: “I think everyone enjoys that. Kyrie is drawing a ton of attention in that moment and Al (Horford) draws a lot of attention, so a couple of Jayson’s baskets were off of that. We played him at the four a little bit so he was able to drive the ball but we need him to be a good player.”
The Celtics (14-5 at home, 10-2 against the Western Conference) ended a three-game home losing streak against Houston last season, when the teams split their two games.