The Celtics host the Brooklyn Nets for the first of 4 meetings between these two teams this season. They will meet one more time in Boston on January 28 and twice in Brooklyn on January 14 and March 30. The Celtics swept the series 4-0 last season, although 3 of the games were close. The Celtics have won the last 9 games vs the Nets and 4 in a row in Boston.
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 7th in the East, which isn’t bad for a team that has had to build without doing so in the draft. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 10-10 on the road. They are 4.5 games behind the Celtics. The Celtics are still 4th in the East, 4.5 games out of first and 2 games behind 3rd place Philadelphia. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 13-5 at home.
The Celtics have had 2 days off since they last played on Friday. They typically play very well on two or more days rest. The Nets, on the other hand are playing on the second night of back to back games and in the 3rd game in 4 nights in 3 different cities. They are 2-7 playing back to back games.
Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris both were full participants in Sunday’s practice. Kyrie is no longer listed on the injury report and is expected to play in this game. Marcus Morris reportedly played well in practice and is probable for this game but they are waiting to see how he does on Monday to make it official. Aron Baynes (hand) and Jabari Bird (personal) are still out. Robert Williams (groin) is still day to day.
As the Celtics get healthier, the Nets become more short handed. They will be missing Caris LeVert’s 18.4 points per game as he is out with a foot injury. Allen Crabbe and Demarre Carroll are both on the injury list with knee injuries. Rondae Hollis Jefferson is listed as out with a groin injury. Dzanan Musa is out with a shoulder injury. Joe Harris twisted his ankle in Sunday’s game and is being listed as out as well.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jabari Bird (personal) out
Aron Baynes (hand) out
Robert Williams (groin) questionable
Marcus Morris (neck) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Nets Starters
Allen Crabbe (knee) out
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (groin) day to day
Caris LeVert (foot) out
Dzanan Musa (shoulder) out
DeMarre Carroll (knee) out
Joe Harris (ankle) out
Two Way Players
Kyrie Irving vs D’Angelo Russell D’Angelo
Russell is averaging 18.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists on the season. Kyrie should be back in the starting lineup after missing 2 games with scratched corneas. Although this is the second season for both players with the Celtics and Nets, this is their first meeting as members of their current teams. This should be a good matchup to watch.
Al Horford vs Jarrett Allen
With all the Nets injuries, the matchup between Al Horford and Jarrett Allen becomes more important. Allen is averaging 11.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 blocks. Al will need to keep him off the glass especially.
Marcus Smart vs Spencer Dinwiddie
I’m guessing that with Harris out the Nets will start Dinwiddie in his place but I haven’t seen anything official as yet. Dinwiddie is averaging 17.9 points, 5.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game. Smart will need to stay with him on defense.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 104.5. 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 just 111.8 points per game to 111.0 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 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 45.1 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. There have been grumblings that the ball moves more without Kyrie in the lineup and this is his chance to dispel those arguments. They have to keep the ball moving but also stay focused and not turn it over.
Rest vs Fatigue - The Celtics have had 2 days off and also are getting back a very rested Kyrie Irving and probably Marcus Morris as well. On the other hand, the Nets are playing back to back and also had to travel overnight to get to Boston. Fatigue could be a factor for them.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing at home, where they have been playing well this season so far with a 13-5 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 10-10 on the road and hopefully will struggle in front of the loud Garden crowd.
Underestimation - We have seen this before, the Celtics at near full health facing a team decimated with injuries. And, too often, the Celtics underestimate their opponent and they come away with a loss. The Celtics have to approach this game the same way as if they were facing the Warriors and come out strong and not give up anything, regardless of who is out on the Nets.