We are live from the Garden for tonight’s highly-anticipated matchup between the suddenly reeling Celtics  and the banged-up Rockets. That’s not the NBA version of the promo, but this is a big game for both teams. The C’s, as we know, are reeling a bit. Losing three out of four on the West Coast and then dropping back-to-back games against the Knicks and Bobcats of all people, have put them on edge a bit.
Tony Allen  is out again and might not be ready until next week. Kevin Garnett  is also feeling the effects of just about everything. But that’s nothing compared to what the Rockets are going through. Tracy McGrady  is not in the starting lineup and not expected to play, and Huston has dropped three in a row and six of its last eight.
So, what will it be? Which team will get itself right tonight? Let’s find out…
FIRST QUARTER WRAP: Impressive opening for the Celtics who are playing with great energy. The plan from the beginning was obvious: Go to Kevin Garnett and KG responded with 10 points. There’s a lot to watch for tonight, including which team can maintain its intensity the longest.
The starters did their job, now it’s up to the bench…
First Quarter Observations
— There is a huge media crowd here tonight. Part of that is the larger than usual Chinese press contingent here for Yao Ming . The Chinese version of Sports Illustrated actually has a reporter assigned to the Celtics, by the way. But every paper is out in force with multiple writers and columnists. A combination of it being January and the C’s recent slide, no doubt.
— Well that didn’t take long for Paul Pierce  and Ron Artest  to get renew their acquaintances. You haven’t forgotten that the two got tangled up in the preseason, have you? At any rate, Artest locked Pierce in an arm bar on the first trip. Kendrick Perkins  had a solid elbow to the ribs on a screen the next time down.
Pierce responded by knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. The Captain is locked in right now.
— The mohawk is not a good look on Von Wafer . It’s actually not a good look for anybody except for Mr. T and maybe Travis Bickle–in that homicidal maniac kind of way.
— There have been more hard picks in the first four minutes of this game than there were in the entire Wizards game.
— Artest got his second foul and the Rockets have gone small with Rafer Alston , Aaron Brooks and Wafer in the lineup. Doc would love to see that combination later when he goes to the bench and uses Eddie House  and Gabe Pruitt  in tandem.
— The Rockets also went to Carl Landry because KG was torching Luis Scola. It hasn’t mattered. Garnett is long overdue for an (Expletive) You game. He’s now 5-for-7.
— Nine minutes in and this is what you got: 10 points for KG, nine for Pierce and six for Allen. Perkins and Rondo have attempted exactly zero shots. The junta is speaking.
— Baby giveth and Baby taketh away. He hit the jumper as the shot clock was going down and then he didn’t box out on the weak side.
— I’m sitting next to the two guys from Slam. Good guys by the way. If Rondo had dunked on Yao that would have been a no-brainer for slam-a-da-month.