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Celtics visit Nets looking to even the season series and regain their mojo

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The Celtics look to even the series with the Nets as they complete the home and home series in Brooklyn.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

at
Boston Celtics (18-15) at Brooklyn Nets (10-23)
Monday, January 4, 2016
7:30 pm ET
Game #34, Road Game #16
TV: CSNNE, YES, NBA-LP 753(DTV)/753(xfinity)
98.5 Sports Hub, WCBS 880 AM
Barclays Center

Referees: Brian Forte, Nick Buchert, Tyler Ford


The Celtics complete the home and home series as they face the Nets for the second time in as many days. In the first home and home between these two teams, the Celtics won the first game at home big and then lost to the Nets in Brooklyn. In this series, they lost the first game at home and hopefully they will turn the tables and will take this one in Brooklyn.

Both teams lost a player in the first game. Avery Bradley left the game with a hip contusion and has been ruled out for this game. I'm guessing that Marcus Smart will get the start in Avery's place. It's also possible that Evan Turner, who started the second half of Saturday's game, may start to make up for Avery's early offense, but I'm thinking the Celtics need Smart's defense with the starters to replace Avery's defense more. Smart will see more minutes with Avery out, but he may not be ready to start.
For the Nets, Jarrett Jack left the game with what was first diagnosed as a sprained knee but later disclosed as a season ending ACL/MCL tear. Shane Larkin is expected to start in his place. Amir Johnson is still dealing with plantar fasciitis but is expected to continue to play through the pain. Jared Sullinger is also dealing with various bumps and bruises including a wrist injury, but is also expected to continue to play. The Nets will again be missing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough along with Jack.

The Celtics are coming off losses to two of the worst teams in the league. First they lost to the Lakers and then to the Nets. The biggest culprits in both losses were the lack of defense and aggressiveness on the part of the Celtics. After that would be the penchant for shooting (and missing) 3 pointers.

In spite of the two losses, the Celtics are still hanging in at the 8th spot in the East, just 1/2 a game ahead of Detroit, and 1/2 a game behind Orlando. In the tight Eastern Conference, the Celtics need to get back on track, especially against the teams like the Nets that they should easily beat.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Shane Larkin

Shooting Guard
vs
Marcus Smart vs Bojan Bogdanovic

Small Forward
vs
Jae Crowder vs Joe Johnson

Power Forward
vs
Amir Johnson vs Thaddeus Young

Center
vs
Jared Sullinger vs Brook Lopez



Celtics Reserves
Evan Turner
Jonas Jerebko
David Lee
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Tyler Zeller
Kelly Olynyk

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Injuries

RJ Hunter (shoulder) Game Time Decision
Avery Bradley (hip) out
Jared Sullinger (banged up) probable
Amir Johnson (foot) probable


Nets Reserves
Andrea Bargnani
Markel Brown
Wayne Ellington
Sergey Karasev
Thomas Robinson
Donald Sloan

Head Coach
Lionel Hollins

Injuries
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle) out
Chris McCullough (knee) out
Jarrett Jack (knee) out

Key Matchups
vs
Jared Sullinger vs Brook Lopez
Lopez is a challenge to defend. He is averaging 19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Lopez is one of only 2 players averaging 19+ points, 8+ rebounds, and 2+ blocks. Anthony Davis is the other. Lopez had 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Nets earlier win over the Celtics and 30 points and 13 rebounds in their win on Saturday. He was allowed to get to the basket at will in that game and the Celtics have to find a way to keep him away from the basket.

vs
Amir Johnson vs Thaddeus Young
Young is averaging 15.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals. In Saturday's game he had a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He can get hot and he is also a good rebounder and so the Celtics need to stay on him on defense and keep him off the boards.

Honorable Mention
Jae Crowder vs Joe Johnson
Johnson had been in a slump leading up to Saturday's game but seemed to find his stroke against the Celtics. He finished with 20 points, but it did take him 19 shots to get them. He did hit a couple of big 3's to stop the Celtics' run in the 4th quarter. Jae needs to play tough defense to keep him from having a big game again.

Keys to the Game

Defense - The Celtics defense has been leaving much to be desired in the losses to the Lakers and Nets. The Celtics allowed the Nets, a team averaging 97 points per game, to score 31 points in the first quarter and that is inexcusable. They have to get back to playing tough in your face team defense if they want to get back in the win column. Defense wins games.

Take the Ball Into the Paint
- The Celtics are in an entire team shooting slump. The Celtics shot 32 three pointers and made just 7 of them. They have to relying so much on the long ball and take the ball inside for a better percentage shot. The Celtics are 7th in the league in 3 pointers attempted but 22nd in 3 pointers made. That's not a good thing.

Be Aggressive - In both of their recent losses, the Celtics lacked aggressiveness. They allowed the Lakers first and then the Nets to be the more aggressive team. The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team in going after loose balls, rebounds, 50/50 balls, and in going to the basket. They also have to be aggressive on defense. They have to be the team that wants it more and they have to play that way for 48 minutes and not just when they are mounting a comeback at the end of the game.

Play as a Team
- The Celtics had just 17 assists in their loss to the Nets on Saturday. Too many players were trying to make the home-run play instead of moving the ball and making the extra pass to get the best shot. When the Celtics' assists are up, they usually get a win and when they are down, it's usually a loss because they aren't playing team ball.

Rebound - The Celtics need the ball in order to score. They need to rebound on the offensive end to give themselves extra possessions and to keep the Nets from getting fast break points. They also need to rebound on the defensive end to keep the Nets from getting second chance points. They allowed way too many tip ins and second chance baskets for the Nets in Saturday's game.

X-Factors

Celtic Pride - The Celtics have lost their last 2 games to teams they should have easily beaten with their normal effort and team play. They need to reach deep down and draw on their Celtic Pride and focus on playing team ball and tough defense and get a win in this one. Tying the series with the Nets would be bad, but losing the series 1-3 would be inexcusable.

Officiating -
Officiating is a factor in every single game played in the NBA. Every crew has their own biases and their own way of officiating and many times it affects the way the game is played. In Saturday's game, the officials called the game inconsistently and there were bad calls going both ways all game. They called a lot of minor contact and there was little flow to the game. The Celtics play better when the refs let them play and aren't tyrants with the whistle and when the calls are consistent.

Road Game - Usually I would say that a home game would give the Celtics a boost, but for some reason, they have been playing better on the road. With a 9-9 home record and a 9-6 road record, the Celtics may have better focus on the road than they do at home.

Official Report
Brian Forte

Brian Forte, who is the son of retired NBA referee Joe Forte, has officiated 465 regular season games and five Playoff game in seven NBA seasons. He also officiated the 2011 NBA All-Star Rookie/Sophmore game. He worked for six seasons in the NBA D-League, officiating 126 games. During that time he worked two Finals. He also officiated in several college conferences, including the Southern Conference, where he officiated the 2007 conference tournament final, and the Southeastern Conference, where he officiated the 2007 conference tournament. Forte also was selected to officiate the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

Forte was the object of Tommy's wrath in the classic rant that follows (the T was later rescinded). The officiating in that game was bad both ways.
Forte was one of the refs that officiated a Celtics win in Indiana 2 seasons ago. The officiating in that game was horrible and very one sided toward the Pacers. One of the comments from the Pacers' forum said that they wouldn't blame Celtics fans if they punched out the refs. It's bad when the officiating is so terrible that the opposing fans feel bad about it. Tommy also had this to say, "I hope this group of officials doesn't officiate the playoffs. Holy cow! They are terrible." He's been good in more recent games, however. He called the wins vs Houston and Washington this season and the officiating in both was good. They let them play and didn't interfere with the flow of the game. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Forte officiating. The Nets are 1-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 with Forte. His home W/L record this season is 16-9.

Nick Buchert
Nick Buchert enters his sixth NBA season having officiated 282 games. Buchert owns nine years of collegiate officiating experience. Additionally, he has officiated the 2010 NBA D-League Finals and 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game. There's not much controversy about Buchert and he has been decent in his games with the Celtics. He called the Sixers game this season and let them play and the officiating was good. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Buchert while the Nets are 0-2 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 17-8.

Tyler Ford
Ford is entering his first season as an NBA referee. Prior to joining the NBA Ford spent five seasons (2009-2015) in the NBA D-League where he officiated 11 playoff games from 2010-2015 including the 2015 NBA D-League Finals and the 2014 NBA D-League All-Star game. Ford also spent four seasons (2011-2015) officiating in the WNBA. He also officiated Division 1 basketball for three season in the Big 10 Conference, Mid-American Conference, & Summit League. In addition, he acted as the Assistant Director of Intramural Sports at Purdue University for six years (2009-2015). Ford holds both a Bachelors & Masters from Ball State University in Sport Administration.

Sometimes young referees can be intimidated by the home crowd and sometimes they try to prove that they can't be intimidated and call everything against the home team. He's a blank slate at this point but I'm sure we will get to know him very quickly. He called the loss to the Raptors and the win over the Nets this season and he was pretty good in both of those games. He averages 43.9 foul calls per game and 54.1% of those are called on the road team. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 1-2 over his career. The Nets are 0-1 this season and 1-2 over his career. His home W/L record this season is 10-11.