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Celtics Look to Tackle Lowly Nets

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Boston Celtics (26-10) at New Jersey Nets (3-34)

Wednesday, January 13, 2009

7:30pm

TV: Comcast SportsNet; Radio: WEEI

Venue: Izod Center

The Boston Celtics look to recover from their woes against the Atlanta Hawks by feasting on the NBA's worst team, the New Jersey Nets, tonight at 7:30pm.

Setting the Stage: The Celtics and Nets have already squared off once this season, with the Celtics outlasting New Jersey 86-76 back on November 7.

Despite their recent struggles away from Boston, the Celtics still boast one of the league's best road records (15-5), while the Nets sport the worst home record in all of basketball, and have less wins at home than any other team in the league (2-15). The Nets have lost five straight games and nine of their last 10 overall.

Boston's posted a nearly flawless 7-1 mark against Atlantic Division opponents this season, while the Nets are just 1-6 against divisional foes.

Playing From Behind: The Nets enter tonight's game with the league's worst point differential mark (-11.35 ppg).

Stepping Up: In his last nine games, Yi Jianlian has averaged 18.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.

After averaging just 4.9 points per game as a rookie, sophomore Chris Douglas-Roberts has returned with a vengeance, as he's averaging 15.5 points per game this season, good for eighth among all second year players. Interestingly enough, fellow sophomore Brook Lopez leads all second year players in scoring with his 18.6 ppg mark.

Points are a Problem: New Jersey sits dead last in nearly every major offensive category in the league coming into tonight's game. They're last in points per game (89.78), field goal percentage (.420), three-point percentage (.280) and assists (17.16).
Skipping Town: Veteran point guard Rafer Alston, who filled in for Devin Harris during his stint of injuries earlier this season, reached a buyout agreement with New Jersey last week and is now a free agent.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Brian Scalabrine, Kendrick Perkins

Nets: Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Chris-Douglas Roberts, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez

Health Check: For the Celtics, guard Marquis Daniels (thumb) and forwards Kevin Garnett (knee) and Rasheed Wallace (foot) are all out.

For the Nets, guard Devin Harris (wrist) is listed as day-to-day.

Keep It In Mind: The Nets have already suffered through two separate 10-game losing streaks this season.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Brian Scalabrine drained all three of his 3-point field goal attempts against the Hawks on Monday and finished with nine points.

For the Nets, Brook Lopez is coming off a 28-point, 11-rebound effort against the Spurs on Sunday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo combined to score just five points in the fourth quarter against Atlanta on Monday.

For the Nets, Courtney Lee managed just four points in 37 minutes against the Spurs on Sunday.

Key Matchup: Kendrick Perkins vs. Brook Lopez

Honorable Mention: Paul Pierce vs. Yi Jianlian

Skinny: All signs point to a Celtics victory tonight, BUT, there's no such thing as a guaranteed win in the NBA. The Celtics cannot simply "show up" tonight and expect to walk out of Izod with a victory. If the Celtics are assertive in the early going, there's no reason they can't wallop the Nets through the first three quarters and rest their starters in the final frame.

Devin Harris did not play against the Spurs on Monday, but if he does, look for some interesting matchups between him and Rondo and Lopez and Perkins. As much as Yi has impressed on the offensive end lately, let's see how he fares while trying to guard Paul Pierce. Pierce might have to shoulder more of the scoring than usual tonight, only because Courtney Lee routinely gave Ray Allen fits during last season's playoffs, and could very well limit his effectiveness tonight. Other than that, the Celtics, if they play the way they're capable of playing, shouldn't have too many problems securing a win tonight.