Celtics Visit Nets in Sunday Matinee

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Sunday, December 5, 2010
1:00pm
Location: Prudential Center
TV: Comcast SportsNet [] Radio: 850 AM WEEI

The Boston Celtics will aim for their seventh straight victory when they take on the New Jersey Nets today at 1:00pm. 

The Celtics earned their sixth straight victory Friday night when they vanquished the Chicago Bulls at home, 104-92, behind a monster night from Kevin Garnett, who finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block. 

While the Celtics might be flying high, the same cannot be said for the 6-14 Nets, who have dropped three straight games, including their last two in overtime. Point guard Devin Harris did not play in either of the Nets' two most recent losses, after leaving the team's game against the New York Knicks last Tuesday with a strained left knee. Harris is expected to be back in the lineup for the Nets today, and will go head-to-head with another banged up point guard in Rajon Rondo

These two teams last met on November 24 in Boston, and the Celtics prevailed 89-83 without Rajon Rondo (hamstring). Harris finished that game with 20 points and five assists, center Brook Lopez added 16 points and five rebounds, and Anthony Morrow contributed 18 points on 7-11 shooting. 

The Nets are currently ranked 20th in offensive efficiency (102.2 points/100 possessions) and 22nd in defensive efficiency (106.3 points allowed/100 possessions). New Jersey boasts an 0-3 record against divisional opponents this season, along with a less than desirable 4-5 mark at home. The Nets are just 2-8 in their last 10 games. 

Projected Starters

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Shaquille O'Neal

Nets: Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Kris Humphries, and Brook Lopez

Injuries

For the Celtics, centers Jermaine O'Neal (knee) and Kendrick Perkins (knee) are out, as is guard Delonte West (wrist). Point guard Rajon Rondo (feet, hamstring) should play today. 

For the Nets, point guard Devin Harris (knee) is expected to play. 

Who's Hot

For the Celtics, all five starters scored in double figures against the Bulls on Friday night. 

For the Nets, Travis Outlaw scored 21 points in the Nets' 91-84 overtime loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday. 

Who's Not

For the Celtics, Nate Robinson has shot just 5-17 from the floor in his last three games (29.4 percent). His cold shooting might be related to the sore foot he's been battling.

For the Nets, Brook Lopez shot just 3-10 against the Bobcats on Friday night and finished with only 13 points and a mere two rebounds. 

Key Matchup

Rajon Rondo vs. Devin Harris

Skinny

The Nets are sliding right now, making it the perfect time for the Celtics - the Atlantic Division Enforcers - to pounce. The Celtics got off to a hot start on Friday night against Chicago by pushing the tempo early on, pumping the ball inside to Shaq and Garnett, and not committing costly turnovers. The C's should establish Shaq in the post against Lopez early, and if they can cause Lopez to a commit a few early fouls, all the better. 

Keep an eye on the bench today, as it was unable to maintain Boston's 12-point first quarter edge in the second frame on Friday night. If the starters can do their job and earn the Celtics a double-digit lead, the pressure will be on the bench, once again, to not give it back. 

I'd like to see the Celtics get Ray Allen going midway through the first quarter, by running him around his customary screens and freeing him for mid-range jump shots. The C's should put some pressure on Morrow to work around the picks, which could help in depleting his energy, which he likes to utilize on offense. Allen scored 10 points in the first quarter against the Bulls, but only four for the remainder of the game. Hopefully the Celtics can keep him involved in the offense consistently for the majority of today's game.

While their record isn't flashy, the Nets will battle, as evidenced by their most recent loss in Boston, and their last two losses overall, which they pushed to overtime. So even if the Celtics do earn a big lead today (which they should), they shouldn't expect the Nets to roll over and go away. Paul Pierce and co. keep talking about putting together 48 straight minutes of solid basketball. Let's see if today can be another step towards that. 

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