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Preview: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics Game #50

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The Celtics host the Brooklyn Nets for the third time this month.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

This is the 3rd of 4 meetings between these two teams this season. The Celtics beat the Nets 116-95 on January 7 in Boston. The Nets returned the favor by beating the Celtics 109-102 in Brooklyn one week later on January 14. They will meet one more time in Brooklyn on March 30.

These two teams will forever be linked by the trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to the Nets for Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph and first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 along with the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2017. The Celtics can thank the Nets for Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and in part, Kyrie Irving. In the meantime, the Nets have absolutely nothing to show for the trade.

The Nets are 6th in the East, which is amazing considering that they had to build without the draft and have had a huge list of injuries for much of this season. They are 12-12 on the road and have won 20 of their last 25 games. They come into this game on a 6 game win streak. They are just 3.5 games behind the Celtics and are 2.5 games ahead of the Heat, who are in 7th place.

The Celtics are still in the 5th spot in the East. They are now 6 games behind the first place Milwaukee Bucks and 5 games behind 2nd place Raptors. They are 1.5 games behind 4th place Philadelphia. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and they are 19-6 at home.

The Nets have an extensive injury list and I’m not sure who they start if Harris and Graham can’t play so I am just leaving them in the starting lineup for now. Treveon Graham (back), Joe Harris (hip), and Rondae Hollis Jeffoerson (shoulder) are all questionable. Spencer Dinwiddie (thumb), Jared Dudley (hamstring), Dzanan Musa (shoulder), Allen Crabbe (knee) and Caris LeVert (foot) are all listed as out as of now.

The Celtics will be without Kyrie Irving who will be out with a hip strain. They have also recalled Robert Williams from the Red Claws for this game. The Celtics can’t take this team for granted. The Nets beat them once already, in spite of being short handed. And, in spite of being short handed, they have won their last 6 games and 20 of their last 15 games. They play hard and if the Celtics come into this game thinking it will be an easy win, that’s all that it will take for the Nets to get a second win in this series.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Semi Ojeleye
Daniel Theis
Brad Wanamaker
Guerschon Yabusele
Gordon Hayward
Jaylen Brown
Aron Baynes
Robert Williams

InactivesJ
abari Bird (personal) out
Kyrie Irving (hip) out

Two Way Players
PJ Dozier
RJ Hunter

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Nets Starters

Nets Reserves
Ed Davis
DeMarre Carroll
Shabazz Napier

Injuries
Allen Crabbe (knee) out
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (shoulder) questionable
Caris LeVert (foot) out
Dzanan Musa (shoulder) out
Joe Harris (hip) questionable
Jared Dudley (hamstring) out
Spencer Dinwiddie (thumb) out

Two Way Players
Theo Pinson

Head Coach
Kenny Atkinson

Key Matchups

Terry Rozier vs D’Angelo Russell
D’Angelo Russell is averaging 19.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists on the season. In their last meeting, Russell put up 34 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. The Celtics need to pay attention to him on defense in this game. With Kyrie out, Terry Rozier has to once again turn it on and shift into gear for the Celtics.

Al Horford vs Jarrett Allen
Jarett Allen is averaging 11.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Allen had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks in their last meeting. As with Kyrie, Al is back to being healthy and has been playing very well. Hopefully he will be able to limit Allen’s production in this one.

Honorable Mention
Celtics Bench vs Nets Bench In spite of all the injuries, the Net’s reserves are 2nd in the league, averaging 47.1 points per game. The Celtics reserves have been up and down with inconsistent play from Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward. Hopefully this group will pull it together and find some consistency beginning with this game.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are 5th in the league with a defensive rating of 104.9. The Celtics have been slipping somewhat on defense and they need to get back to playing tough, in your face defense once again. The Celtics are averaging 112.2 points per game to 111.8 points per game for the Nets, and so in order to win they are going to have to make defense their priority and slow down the Nets’ 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 because the Nets always play hard themselves. They have to be the team that wants it more.

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 45.0 rebounds per game compared to 46.2 for the Nets. They need to give extra effort on the boards as a team in order to beat the Nets to the rebounds.

Play the Right Way - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. Kyrie tried to do too much against the Warriors and he has to get back to playing team ball and trusting his teammates. They have to keep the ball moving but also stay focused and not turn it over.

X-Factors
Home Game - The Celtics are playing at home, where they have been playing well this season so far with a 19-6 record at the Garden. They should get a boost from the fans and benefit from the familiar surroundings. The Nets on the other hand are just 12-12 on the road and hopefully the loud Garden fans will rattle the Nets focus a bit.

Let Down - The Celtics are coming off of one of their toughest games of the season and a very tough loss. It would be natural for them to let down a bit, especially with a team coming in with so many injuries. But as I have said before, the Nets always play hard and the Celtics had better not take them for granted.

Officiating - After the game against the Warriors, I am adding officiating to the x-factors. The referees are always an x-factor. They can control a game and they can decide a game when they want to. Hopefully we get a fairly called game with the officials not looking to be the stars of the match.