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Celtics look for their 6th straight win as they visit the Brooklyn Nets

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The Celtics and Nets meet for the 3rd of 4 games this season with the Celtics looking for their 6th straight win.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics come off of their home stand to take a 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 while the Nets were tanking for for the Celtics’ lottery picks. The final Nets pick is now in the hands of the Cavs because of the Kyrie Irving trade. I can imagine that the Nets would love to pay the Celtics back for all those lottery picks that they didn’t get.

This is the 3rd of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics beat the Nets in Brooklyn 109-102 on November 14. They also held off a Brooklyn rally to beat them 108-105 in Boston on December 31. They will meet one more time in Boston in the very last game of the regular season on April 11.

The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games, beating the Timberwolves in Boston 91-84 on Friday night. The Celtics have completed 7 back to back sets and have 6 more to go after this game. The Celtics are 4-3 on the second night of back to back games and 2-1 when the games are home/road. The Celtics don’t play again until January 11 when they face the 76ers in London.

The Nets are 9-10 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 2 games and 3 of their last 4 games. Both teams are coming off a win over the Timberwolves. The Nets beat them 99-98 on Wednesday while the Celtics beat them 91-84 on Friday night. The Celtics have won 7 straight against the Nets and 4 straight games in Brooklyn. The Celtics are 14-5 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 5 games.

Caris LeVert missed the Nets’ game on Wednesday with a groin strain and is expected to miss this game also. He had 16 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists off the bench for the Nets in their New Year’s Eve game against the Celtics so this is a big loss for them. D’Angelo Russell (knee) and Jeremy Lin (knee) both missed that game and remain out for this game.

DeMarre Carroll was questionable for Wednesday’s game vs the Timberwolves but played 31 minutes in that game with bruised ribs. After that game he was asked how his ribs felt and he had this to say, “You ever put ribs on a barbecue grill and smoke them? That’s how they feel.” He is expected to play in this game but he may not be at 100%.

Marcus Morris missed Friday night’s game against the Timberwolves but expects to play in this game. They are still being careful with his knee and not playing him in back to back games as yet. Al Horford is playing with some knee soreness and after pre-game shoot around was unable to play. Baynes will start in his place at center.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Shane Larkin
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Daniel Theis
Guerschon Yabusele
Terry Rozier
Marcus Smart

Injuries
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Morris (knee) expected to play
Al Horford (knee) out

Two Way Players
Kadeem Allen
Jabari Bird

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Nets Starters

Nets Reserves
Quincy Acy
Jarrett Allen
Joe Harris
Timofey Mozgov
Jahlil Okafor
Nik Stauskas
Isaiah Whitehead

Injuries
Jeremy Lin (knee) out
D’Angelo Russell (knee) out
Caris LeVert (groin) out
DeMarre Carroll (ribs) expected to play

Two Way Players
Jacob Wiley
Milton Doyle

Head Coach
Kenny Atkinson

Key Matchups

Kyrie Irving vs Spencer Dinwiddie
Once again, Kyrie will be matched up against Spencer Dinwiddie at the point. Dinwiddie is averaging 12.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game. In the first game between these two teams, Dinwiddie finished with 12 points and 11 assists.

Marcus Morris vs Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 14.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. In his first game, against the Celtics, he had 16 points and 9 rebounds and in the second game, he had 22 points and 12 rebounds. He is also one of the better defenders on the team. Whether it is Al or Marcus matched up with him, they need to make him work on both ends of the court.

Honorable Mention
Celtics Bench vs Nets Bench
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Nets’ reserves outscored their Celtics counterparts 38-13. In the second game, the Celtics bench did much better with 43 points compared to 46 for the Nets. The Nets have had 8 different reserves score 20 points in at least one game this season, the most in the league. Their bench has the second highest scoring average at 45.9 points per game. The Celtics reserves need to step up their game once again for the Celtics to get a win, especially if Al doesn’t play.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics let their defense slip for a little bit but seem to be back on track with it in their last few games. They beat their last two opponents (Cavs and Wolves) with defense as both teams are among the league leaders on offense. Their defense will be tested once again against the Nets, who are averaging 106.9 points per game (9th). The Celtics are averaging just 103.4 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’ offense. The Celtics especially need to guard the 3 point line as the Nets attempt 34 3 pointers per game (2nd) and make 12 per game (3rd).

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 because the Nets always play hard themselves. 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 44.2 rebounds per game compared to 45.5 for the Nets. They need to give extra effort on the boards as a team in order to beat the Nets to the rebounds.

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 play hard and will try to disrupt the passing lanes and the Celtics have to be careful to keep them from doing so.

X-Factors
Trap Game - The Celtics continue to hold on at the top of the league while the Nets are 8 games below .500 and fighting for every win. Both teams are missing a key player for the season and the Nets are 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.

The Nets have beaten the Cavs, Thunder, Wizards and Jazz by playing very hard each and every game. They have also kept both games against the Celtics close. Also, this is the last game before the game against the 76ers in London and if the Celtics look ahead to that, or rest on their laurels for beating the Cavs and Wolves, and take the Nets lightly, the Nets are very capable of making them pay.

Back to Back - The Celtics are yet again playing on the second night of back to back games. Playing against another young team on Friday, they expended a lot of energy. They need to dig down and find the energy and will to play hard from the start of the game right up until the end in order to get the win.