The Celtics come off of their 3 game home stand to take a quick trip to Brooklyn to face the Nets. The Celtics can thank the Nets for their quick rebuild in that the Celtics could win and bring in good players as the Nets were tanking for for the Celtics' lottery picks. The final Nets pick is now in the hands of the Cavaliers by virtue of the Kyrie Irving trade. But I can imagine that the Nets would love to pay the Celtics back for all those lottery picks that they didn't get.
The Celtics are 6-1 on the road and have won a league best 12 straight games. The Nets aren't the worst team in the league that they were when the Celtics received their last two draft picks. They are crawling back to respectability once again. They are 3-2 at home and are looking to get back in the win column after losing their last game.
The Nets lost more than just the game, they lost their best player, point guard D'Angelo Russell, who was averaging 20.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. He left their last game with a knee contusion and has been ruled out for this game. They will also be without Jeremy Lin who, like Gordon Hayward suffered a devastating injury early on and is out for the season. Jarrett Allen is day to day with a foot injury, but he was able to participate fully in Monday's practice so will likely play.
Kyrie Irving missed the game against the Raptors after suffering a facial fracture when Aron Baynes caught him with an elbow against the Hornets. He went through shoot around and has said that he expects to play vs the Nets. He has been fitted with a face mask and we are about to be treated to masked Kyrie, who has become somewhat of a phenomenon on Instagram and Twitter. Gordon Hayward also remains out with the ankle injury.
I have included the starting lineup with Horford at power forward and Aron Baynes at Center to match up with Mozgov and Marcus Morris off the bench. However, Brad Stevens would not commit to Baynes remaining in the starting linup and as we have already seen this season it's hard to predict who Brad will go with in any given game. We may see Morris starting with Baynes off the bench. I've also included the Nets' starters from their game notes.
Celtics Probable Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Kyrie Irving (face) probable
Two Way Players
Nets Probable Starters
Jeremy Lin (knee) out
D'Angelo Russell (knee) out
Jarrett Allen (foot) day to day
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs DeMarre Carroll
Carroll is the second highest scorer on the Nets now that both Lin and D'Angelo are out. He is averaging 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 1 steal in his last game vs the Jazz.
Al Horford vs Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 14.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. In his last game, against the Jazz, he had 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He is also one of the better defenders on the team. Al will need to make him work on both ends of the court.
Daniel Theis vs Tyler Zeller
This should be an interesting matchup between a former Celtics big man and a current Celtics big man. Zeller is averaging 9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 15.8 minutes off the bench while Theis is averaging 4.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 14.2 minutes per game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics have been playing incredible defense and it isn't a stretch to say that it is their defense that has been responsible for most of their 12 straight wins. Their defense will be tested against the Nets, who are averaging 110.6 points per game (4th). The Celtics are averaging just 102.2 points per game and so in order to win they are going to have to continue to make defense their priority and slow down the Nets' 4th ranked offense.
Be Aggressive - 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. They can't let themselves play with less than 100% effort because they are playing the Nets. They have to be the team that plays harder.
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. The Celtics are averaging 47.5 rebounds per game compared to 45.5 for the Nets. They need to continue to crash the boards as a team.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics have to stay focused and take care of the ball. They have to value every possession and make good passes and find the open man for the best open shots. They can't get sloppy and give the Nets extra chances by allowing them to steal the ball. The Nets are averaging 17.2 points off turnovers and so the Celtics need to limit their turnovers to keep them from getting extra points from them.
Trap Game - The Celtics have won 12 straight games and at the top of the league while the Nets are below .500 and fighting for every win. Both teams are missing a key player for the season and both may be missing a star point guard. But the Celtics can't take this team for granted because they are capable of pulling out a win if the Celtics let down their guard against them.
Road Team/Home Team - The Celtics are back on the road after three home games. They have to ignore all the distractions that come from playing on the road and in a hostile arena and focus on the task at hand of playing hard and focused and getting a win. The Nets are back home after a 5 game road trip and the first game at home after a road trip is always a tough one. Hopefully we see the best of the Celtics and the worst of the Nets.
Masked Kyrie - Needless to say, if Kyrie can play it will make it a lot easier for the Celtics. He participated fully in the shoot around and is expected to start. If the past is any indication, this should be fun. Kyrie has worn a mask twice in his career so far, once for a broken jaw and once for a broken nose. He averaged 24.2 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.1 steals over 25 games in the mask. He shot 46.4% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc. He also scored 40 or more twice over that time.