The Celtics complete their 3 game road trip with a visit to the Brooklyn Nets. This is the 2nd of 4 meetings between these two teams this season. The Celtics beat the Nets 116-95 one week ago in Boston. They will meet one more time in Boston on January 28 and again in Brooklyn on March 30. The Celtics have won the last 10 games vs the Nets going back to January of 2016.
The Nets have won 4 straight games at home and 8 of their last 9 games in Brooklyn. Since December 7th, the Nets have the best home record in the East with 8 wins and just one loss. Overall, the Nets are 11-11 at home while the Celtics are 10-12 on the road. Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Celtics have lost 2 straight and would like to avoid their 3rd 3 game losing streak of the season.
The Celtics are stuck in 5th place and can’t seem to make up any ground on the teams ahead of them. After Saturday’s loss, one of the things Kyrie said was that the Celtics can’t be content to be in 5th place and they have to improve their place in the standings. They are now 6.5 games behind the Raptors and 2 games behind the Sixers. The Nets are in 7th place, 5 games behind the Celtics.
In the first game between these two teams, the Celtics had been off for 2 days while the Nets were playing on the second night of back to back games. Both teams are coming into this game with one day of rest. The Celtics are coming off 2 losses while the Nets lost just one game. The Nets are just 6-13 against teams with a winning record.
The Celtics will once again be without Aron Baynes who is reportedly close to returning but will miss this game. Kyrie Irving has confirmed that he will miss this game with a quad contusion that he suffered on Saturday in the game against the Orlando Magic. He expects to return for Wednesday’s game against the Raptors. Marcus Smart is also listed as doubtful for this game with an illness.
The Nets will be playing short handed once again with Jared Dudley (hamstring), Dzanan Musa (shoulder), Allsn Crabbe (knee) and Caris LeVert (foot) all listed as being out. Rondae Hollis Jefferson is listed as questionable with an adductor strain. It will be interesting to see how these teams match up with both teams short handed.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jabari Bird (personal) out
Aron Baynes (hand) out
Kyrie Irving (quad) out
Marcus Smart (illness) doubtful
Two Way Players
Probable Nets Starters
Allen Crabbe (knee) out
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (groin) questionable
Caris LeVert (foot) out
Dzanan Musa (shoulder) out
Jared Dudley (hamstring) out
Two Way Players
Terry Rozier vs D’Angelo Russell
D’Angelo Russell is averaging 18.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists on the season. Kyrie will miss this game and it will likely be up to Terry Rozier to keep Russell from having a big game and also to make up for Kyrie’s 22.7 points and 6.4 assists.
Jaylen Brown vs Joe Harris
Harris missed their last meeting with a sprained ankle but should be back in the starting lineup for this one. He is averaging 13.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. With Smart being doubtful for this one, I’m going to guess that Brown will move back into the starting lineup and be matched up with Harris.
Marcus Morris vs Rodions Kurucs
Kurucs is averaging 9.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.7 assists. However in last Monday’s game, he had 24 points and pretty much got whatever he wanted against the Celtics defense. Hopefully the Celtics can do a better job of limiting him in this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics have let their defense slip a bit in recent games. Both the Heat and the Magic seemed to be able to score at will with the Celtics a step slow on the defensive end. Their defense will be tested once again against the Nets, who are averaging 110.7 points per game. In order to win they are going to have 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 1 pointers per game and make 12.3 per game.
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 been slacking off in their effort in the past 2 losses and need to get back to being the team that works 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 45.1 rebounds per game compared to 45.4 for the Nets. Much of rebounding is in their effort and the Celtics need to give extra effort on the boards as a team in order to beat the Nets to the rebounds.
Play the Right Way - Much has been made of the bickering between teammates in the past 2 games. There was no bickering during their 4 game win streak because they were playing the right way. They were moving the ball and finding the open man, averaging 30+ assists per game. They moved away from that in their last 2 losses and regardless of the reason for it, they need to get back to playing the right way - as a team.
Road Game - The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 3 game road trip. The Celtics can’t make the mistake of looking forward to being back at home. They have to focus on playing the game and playing as a team and not let the frustrations and distractions of playing on the road get in their way.
Focus on Team - The Celtics have let their focus stray from playing the game as it should be played and playing as a team. They have been focusing on mistakes of their teammates and not playing their own game and making sure that they encourage each other and play as a team. If they let things divide them they will never get back on track. Play as a team - play together - play the right way.
Next Man Up - Both teams are going to be short handed in this game. Will the Celtics once again regroup and go with the next man up motto and fill in for their missing teammates? Or, will the Nets be the team that comes up big in spite of their missing players.