Rockets-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Rockets are built to score by outrunning their opponents, something Kevin McHale knows quite well.

They should have a much easier time doing that if Chandler Parsons can play.

Parsons is expected to return after a three-game absence Monday night as visiting Houston tries to send the Boston Celtics to a ninth straight loss.

Only Portland and Minnesota average more points than the Rockets' 105.3, but Houston's worst offensive performance of the season came Saturday in Atlanta, an 83-80 loss as Parsons missed his second straight game with a sore knee.

The Rockets (24-14) bounced back the next night, however, shooting 52.1 percent as four of their five starters scored at least 18 in a 114-107 win at Washington.

It wasn't all easy, as Houston saw a 25-point third-quarter lead turn into a five-point deficit. But the Rockets closed on a 17-5 run thanks to eight straight points from James Harden.

Houston finished with 22 assists, improving to 11-3 when posting at least that many.

"Our identity has got to be what you saw when we pushed, attacked and moved the ball," McHale told the team's official website. "Our identity can't be walk it up; we're just not that type of team - we're not built that way. (General Manager) Daryl Morey put together a team that's going to push and play and we've got to do that."

Getting Parsons back should help. The team's third-leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, Parsons is expected to play Monday after working out Sunday.

Houston is 2-3 without Parsons this season, averaging 99.6 points. They've averaged 106.2 points when Parsons, who has shot 53.2 percent in his last 10 games, has played.

Parsons' potential return would give Jeremy Lin another option while running the point. The guard had 18 points and eight assists against the Wizards after getting 11 and one against Atlanta.

"He was pushing it, he had a good flow going," McHale said. "We played the game (Friday) with no pace, no push. Get it up and down, and Jeremy is very good at pushing it."

Lin had 11 points and five assists off the bench in a 109-85 win over Boston on Nov. 19.

Terrence Jones had a career-high 24 points with nine rebounds in that matchup, and set a personal best with 17 boards Saturday, adding 19 points and three blocks.

Houston lost its last two trips to Boston under former Celtics star McHale, but it'll see a very different team Monday. Boston (13-25) has allowed 106.4 points per game while dropping eight in a row, its longest slide since losing 18 straight from Jan. 7-Feb. 11, 2007.

Boston blew a halftime lead for the second straight night Saturday, falling 112-104 in Portland after shooting 34.0 percent in the final 24 minutes.

Brad Stevens wasn't totally discouraged, though. The Celtics stayed within single digits of the Clippers, Warriors and Trail Blazers after losing the first two games of their trip by a combined 56 points.

"You've got a shot to win against three contenders for the West, but, at the same time, those droughts are killing us," Stevens said. "I think we can get better in those. But I'm trying to figure what it is because we're really playing at such a high level the whole rest of the time. That's the encouraging part."

The Celtics won't have had much time to recover after flying cross-country following Saturday's loss, but they've made a habit of playing close games at home. Six of Boston's last seven at TD Garden have been decided by four points or fewer, a stretch in which it's gone 3-4.

Avery Bradley, who combined for 49 points against the Clippers and Blazers but was held to seven against Golden State, has totaled 18 points while missing 24 of 31 shots in two starts versus Houston.

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