Dwight Howard
Celtics-Rockets Preview
Dwight Howard

Celtics-Rockets Preview

Published Nov. 16, 2015 1:37 a.m. ET

The Houston Rockets are among the worst defensive teams in the NBA, and coach Kevin McHale doesn't think talking is a solution.

Having Dwight Howard back in the lineup should help.

After McHale called out the Rockets for talking too much, they'll try to avoid their longest losing streak of the season Monday night against the visiting Boston Celtics.

Houston (4-6) is surrendering an average of 108.3 points while allowing opponents to shoot 47.0 percent from the floor and 36.9 from 3-point range.


"We gotta get on the same page," McHale said. "We got a lot of mistakes going on defensively. At some point we have to individually defend, too."

The Rockets had issues all over the floor in Saturday's 110-98 loss to Dallas, making just 38.1 percent of their field goals, including 9 of 34 from long range in a third straight loss.

A frustrated McHale said his team doesn't need a meeting to avoid their longest slide since dropping seven straight from Jan. 9-19, 2013.

"We've had a lot of heart to hearts. As a matter of fact, we talk too much," he said. "Talking doesn't win basketball games ... but this isn't a debate thing. If this was a debate team, we'd be in good shape because we talk about a lot of stuff. You gotta go play.

"I've never seen talking yet win anything. Unless you're talking on defense. In this league, you're either making excuses and that means talking or you're making plays and that means you're probably not talking."

McHale thinks having Howard back can at least help defensively. The center was rested against the Mavericks, who capitalized by scoring 54 points in the paint.

Houston is 1-3 without Howard. The Rockets are allowing an average 57.3 points in the paint the last three times he's been out compared to 48.7 in the six games he's played.

"If Dwight goes out, our communication on our back line is terrible," McHale said.

Howard is doing more than clogging the lane, averaging 16.7 points and 12.7 rebounds.

James Harden is second in the NBA with 28.4 points per game. However, he's coming off one of his worst shooting efforts of the season, making 5 of 21 from the floor and needing to make all 14 free throws to finish with 25 points Saturday.

"We just gotta find it. All aspects of our game; defense, offense, just everything," Harden said. "You just gotta keep fighting. We gotta press the issue and be a little bit more aggressive and vocal."

Harden is averaging 17.8 points on 32.8 percent shooting over his last four meetings with Boston (5-4), but they've all been wins for the Rockets, who have allowed an average of 88.5 points in those games.

Houston has taken eight of the last 10 matchups, including four straight at home.

The Celtics have had no issues defensively during a 4-1 stretch, yielding 92.2 points per game and holding opponents to 42.7 percent shooting.

They stifled one of the best offensive teams in the NBA on Sunday, winning 100-85 at Oklahoma City.

Marcus Smart had a career-high 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. The second-year guard has six total points while missing 12 of 13 from the field in two meetings with Houston.

Since scoring a season-low 14 points with four assists in a loss to Indiana on Wednesday, Isaiah Thomas has totaled 43 points and 18 assists over the past two games.


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