New Jersey Nets (1-5) at Boston Celtics (3-3)
Wednesday, January 4
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #7, Home Game #3
TV: CSNNE, YES, NBA-LP 752/753
Tonight's Officials: Dan Crawford, Curtis Blair, Sean Wright
The Celtics have clawed their way back to .500 and face a Nets team that is just 1-5 and will be without some of their key players. It would be very easy to overlook the Nets, but the Celtics haven't played well enough yet to overlook any team.
The Celtics won the 2010-11 season series 3-1 but the Nets won the final meeting of the year. Since that time, the entire Nets roster has had a makeover while the Celtics starters are still intact but they have had a makeover on the bench. The Nets have some nice pieces but it will take some time for the chemistry to build. The Nets are also dealing with a serious foot injury to their starting center Brook Lopez, who was the lone bright spot for much of last season for the team. Their starting PF is also out of this game with a shoulder injury. And as if that wasn't enough, the Nets have announced that starting point guard Deron Williams will be out of this game with bruised ribs.
The Nets are one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA, ranking 29th in scoring at 85.3 ppg and 30th in FG % at 38.4%. The Celtics' defense hasn't been all that good, but unless the Nets break out with some exceptional shooting, the defense should be good enough to hold the Nets to their averages. Ray may be licking his lips in anticipation. The Celtics lead the NBA in 3-pt % (48.3) and the Nets are worst at defending the 3 point line (48.7%). Sounds like a match made in Celtics' heaven.
This should be an easy win for the Celtics. However, the Celtics need to treat this game like they were playing one of the top teams in the league. When they underestimate an opponent, they open themselves up for an upset loss.
Rajon Rondo.....Ray Allen ..... Paul Pierce.....Kevin Garnett..... Jermaine O'Neal
Mickael Pietrus (knee) out
Deron Williams.....Sundiata Gaines.... Damion James.... Shelden Williams...Mehmet Okur
New Jersey Reserves
Kris Humphries (shoulder) out
Brook Lopez (foot) out
Deron Williams (ribs) out
Kevin Garnett vs Shelden Williams
Kevin Garnett has been playing well in the past two games. Facing former Celtic Shelden Williams may be just what he needs to have another very good game. KG has a height advantage and may know just what it would take to get into Shelden's head.
Ray Allen vs MarShon Brooks
To say that Ray has been hot from beyond the arc this season is an understatement. He's shooting 61% from 3 point territory. He should have a heyday with the rookie on him. I wonder how many screens Brooks will have to run through before he gives up.
Rajon Rondo vs Sundiata Gaines
Gaines has been playing shooting guard but with the absence of Deron Williams they are moving him to the point and starting their rookie Brooks at the shooting guard. I'm looking for a big night from Rondo.
Player to Watch
On draft night, Danny Ainge drafted Providence College's MarShon Brooks but then traded him for JaJuan Johnson. It was a trade that several Celtics fans questioned. And with the way Brooks is playing, some still question it. Brooks is leading all rookies in scoring at 13.7 points per game to go with 3.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 21 minutes. He is shooting 46% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. In his last game, he recorded career highs in points (21) and rebounds (7). Johnson hasn't had much chance to play and so it may be awhile before we know whether this trade was indeed a good one or not.
Keys to the Game
Focus - It would be easy to look past a team starting Sundiata Gaines and Shelden Williams but let's not forget that this is also a team that is led by Deron Williams. The Celtics need keep their focus and come out to play as if they were facing the Heat. Underestimating any team, regardless of record is a big mistake.
Defense - The key to every win is defense. The Celtics have got to put out the effort on the defensive end and when the defense is on track, that fuels the offense.
Rebound - Rebounding is a big key to getting a win. The Celtics must put out the effort on the boards to prevent second chance baskets and put backs from the Nets. The Nets are ranked 17th in rebounding at 41.3 per game while the Celtics are ranked 28th with 36.7 rebounds per game. The Celtics have to crash the boards and work hard to out-rebound the Nets.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics must come out strong and make a statement early. They shouldn't give the Nets any hope that they could win this game. They also have to play hard until the final buzzer and not allow the Nets to mount any comebacks.
Dan Crawford has been a referee in the NBA since the 1984-85 season. Prior to the NBA, Crawford officiated in high school for 12 years, 8 years at the collegiate level (MVC and CCAC) and 4 years in the CBA. He has officiated 1,600+ regular season games, 190+ play-off games and 18 NBA Finals games. After one of the Celtics playoff games in Chicago in round 1 in 2008, there was some controversy when he was seen leaving the arena with his family all decked out in Chicago Bulls gear. He's been in the news lately because he has been accused of having a bias against Marc Cuban because the Mavs were 2-16 in games officiated by Crawford last season and Cuban has been very vocal about it. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and are 6-4 over their last 10 game with Crawford officiating. The loss this season was the against Miami game in which the Heat shot 8 more free throws than the Celtics. The Nets are 3-7 in their last 10 games with Crawford. Crawford is a homer ref with a home team W/L record of 4-0 this season.
A 6'3" and 185 lb point guard, Blair played college basketball for the University of Richmond Spiders. Blair was honored as the Colonial Athletic Association Men's Basketball Player of the Year in 1991-92 season, as well as a two-time first-team All-CAA and three-time CAA All-Tournament team selection. He was selected by the Houston Rockets in the 2nd round (53rd overall) of the 1992 NBA Draft, though he never played in a regular-season game for the Rockets. Following a brief career playing overseas, Blair became a referee in the NBA. This is his 4th season as an NBA official. Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games with Blair as an official. The Nets are 3-7 in recent games with Blair. His home W/L record this season is 4-0.
Wright's first season in the league was 2005-06. Before he started his career in the NBA he spent 4 years in the officiating in the NBDL, and also officiating in college and high school level. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 with Wright on the court. One of the losses last season was the game vs Chicago where the Bulls shot 35 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. At one point just after the half, Derrick Rose alone had almost doubled the Celtics free throws as a team. That performance elicited these comments from Bulls fans:
Book these refs for the playoffs please
Who hired these refs? Lets give them promotion after the game
Wow have never seen Rose draw so many fouls and get so many FTs.
Ron Garretson, Tommy Nunez, Sean Wright
Best refs of all time.
Best refs EVAR!!!
The Nets are 3-7 in their last 10 games with Wright. His home W/L record this season is 2-2.
Trap Game and Home Court
The Celtics have the home crowd behind them and they need to feed off the energy from the crowd to play hard and get the win. Focus will be key here as if they remain focused they should get an easy win but if they lose focus and allow the Nets to stay in it, it could be a tough fight to the end. It wouldn't be the first time that a bad team with several players out rallied to beat a Celtics team that lost their focus.