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Celtics Go To New Jersey To Try Complete Sweep Of Streaking Nyets

Boston Celtics (47-17, 19-11 away) @ New Jersey Nets (21-43, 17-16 home)
Time: 7:00 PM EST, Monday, March 14th, 2011
Venue: Prudential Center, Newark NJ
Officials: Bennett Salvatore, Derrick Collins, Mark Lindsay
The Line: The Celtics are 14-1 against the New Jersey Nets in the post-KG era.
The Nets acquired Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz on the trade deadline and
are 4-3 since then, tying the mark for their best 7 game stretch of the season.


The Celtics are almost done with their contrition. Saturday, February 27th, 2010. It is a day that will live in infamy. The Boston Celtics had been plummeting in the standings despite starting out on top of them for the first year, and the Celtics players themselves were looking almost apathetic. But then, the low point struck..the Nets walked into Boston Garden, the owners of a 5 win and 52 loss record, to face one of the most feared teams in the East, for what Boston fans could only assume was an easy win, if such a thing existed.

Well apparently, it did not. The Celtics mailed in an eight point loss that night, and nobody forgot it for the rest of the season. That loss just stuck with you, as a fan, and I imagine it had to be much more acute as an actual player. Every game for the rest of that season became a question mark...before it had always been, "We should win, we're that good. If we lose, it is out of character." But, after that loss nothing could be taken for granted. That loss shook the very beliefs I had as a fan about the professionalism and work ethic of the team, and sure, it made me rethink my "just wait til the playoffs, they'll come around" mantra. It was, for me, the low-point of the season..and I'm including the Finals loss. At least during the Finals Game 7, you always felt like the Celtics were trying, and doing their best (the fact that they led for a large part of the game didn't hurt that notion either), so even when we lost, even though I was heartbroken, I was not angry, or frustrated. After the Nets game, I was angry, I felt cheated.

Well, the Celtics are almost done making it right. While this season has not been all lollipops and ice cream cones, I'd say it has gone pretty well. The Celtics are dropping games to bad teams once and a while, sure..but I never feel like they're not trying, or that they're mailing it in. The C's are atop the Eastern Conference, with much more hyped teams like the Bulls and the Heat in their rear-view, despite consistently being relegated behind them in things like "Power Rankings". This year's Celtics team seems at once stronger and more focused than last year's, despite the trade of Kendrick Perkins and numerous injuries to key rotation players. However, in order to really finish redeeming themselves in this fan's eyes for last year's loss in New Jersey, there is one final task: They must demolish the New Jersey Nets tonight, completing the season sweep.

And, in the last 3 weeks or so, that task has gotten significantly harder. The Nets used to boast a roster that held Devin Harris as its 'best player', and enjoyed such privileges as always coming in second while trying to sign superstars, or picking really early in the draft. Now though, New Jersey has acquired Deron Williams, whom many thought was the league's best point guard at the beginning of the season. And since picking up Deron Williams, the Nets are playing as hot as they've been all season, and are currently riding a 4 game winning streak.Williams, in the games he has played as a Net, is averaging 15 points and 15 assists per game.

But the price remains the same; while tonight's Nets might not be the same group of guys that caroused their way to 12 wins last year (they've already nearly doubled that number), they're still the Nets. And deep down, I know in my heart, that the Celtics still have to make it right tonight, and fix that horrible Saturday, from over a year ago.

Projected starters and team connnections courtesy of CB Author FLCeltsFan, who is the reason cavemen drew on walls.

Probable Starters
Rajon Rondo.....Ray Allen ..... Paul Pierce.....Kevin Garnett..... Nenad Krstic

Boston Bench Mob
Jeff Green
Sasha Pavlovic
Troy Murphy
Carlos Arroyo
Avery Bradley
Glen Davis

Shaquille O'Neal (knee) out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Delonte West (wrist) doubtful
Von Wafer (calf) out

Probable Starters
Deron Williams.....Anthony Morrow.... Sasha Vujacic.... Kris Humphries...Brook Lopez

Nets Bench
Jordan Farmar
Travis Outlaw
Stephen Graham
Johan Petro
Ben Uzoh
Sundiata Gaines
Dan Gadzuric
Brandon Wright

Damion James (foot) out
Quinton Ross (back) out
Deron Williams (personal) probable

Team Connections

Nets assistant coach Popeye Jones played for the Celtics from 1997‐99
Damion James and Avery Bradley were teammates at Texas... Johan Petro and Ray Allen were teammates in Seattle from 2005‐07
Kevin Garnett and Nets Assistant Coach Sam Mitchell were teammates in Minnesota from 1995‐2002..
Von Wafer and Travis Outlaw were teammates in Portland during
the 2007‐08 season
Shaquille O’Neal and Nets Assistant Coach Larry Krystkowiak were teammates on the Lakers during the 1996‐97 season
Jermaine O’Neal played for Nets Assistant Coach Sam Mitchell during the 2008‐09 season in Toronto
Kris Humphires and Carlos Arroyo were teammates in Utah during the 2004‐05 season
Troy Murphy played for the Nets at the beginning of this season
Troy Murphy was teammates with Nets Head Coach Avery Johnson in Golden State during the 2003‐04 season
Troy Murphy and Stephen Graham were teammates in Indiana from 2007‐09
Nenad Krstic played for the Nets from 2004‐08..
Celtics Assistant Coach Lawrence Frank was the Head Coach of the Nets from 2003‐2009
Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green were teammates with Johan Petro in Oklahoma City from 2008‐09
Sasha Pavlovic and Stephen Graham were teammates in Cleveland during the 2005‐06 season.

Match-up Of The Night: Brook Lopez V Nenad Krstic

-Obviously Deron Williams is the Nets; biggest threat tonight, but I will get to him later. In a strictly individual assignment, tonight will be Nenad Krstic's night to shine. Glen Davis did a good job in segments whilst guarding Brook Lopez in the last meeting between these two teams, but for the most part Lopez has been contained because Boston has bigger, more physical centers. Now, Nenad Krstic brings something different to the table, and maybe not wholly desirable here. Brook Lopez is averaging 20.0 points per game against Krstic in 6 career head to head matchups between the two, and for Boston to be successful tonight, a good start would be to ensure Lopez is 'less than average'.

Keys To The Game For The Good Guys:

1) It Takes A Village...To Stop Deron Williams- Deron Williams might be averaging 15 points and 15 assists in his brief time so far as a Net, but he's also shooting a paltry 36.5% from the field and 22.2% from beyond the arc. However, Deron Williams is about to return from a couple days off so he could be there for the birth of his son. I imagine he'll come out tonight with fully charged batteries and a refreshed attitude, so the Celtics have to be careful. While Williams is capable of having a 20 assist night, it is his ability to have a 30 point scoring outburst that worries me more, and if the Celtics' defensive rotations are slow or uncertain (COUGH, KRSTIC, GREEN, AND MURPHY, COUGH), Willams will smell blood. Williams is a competitor, and he's too good for Rondo to really hold him up much without the rest of the team shoring up the cracks.

2) Stay Focused, You Mugs!- This has got to be the most recurring 'key to the game' in any one of these previews, because the honest to God truth is: these Celtics have a penchant for playing down to their competition. The Celtics managed a full 48 minutes of defense last night, but let's see if they can keep that momentum up and really put the boot to New Jersey early. Ain't nothin' wrong with embarrassing a team on its own court.

3) Second Unit, Second Wind- Last night the second unit did something I haven't seen the reserves do in what seems like quite a while: They extended the lead. If our reserves can get their stuff together, and managed to be good enough to not only keep the lead the starters give them, but extend it..this Celtics team shouldn't win by less than 15 points tonight.

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