The league has been hyping this game since before the season even began as the return of Kyrie Irving to Boston. It is being televised on ESPN and has been hyped to no end by the league. Celtics fans could have told them long ago that Kyrie wouldn’t play in the Garden the same way he didn’t play in Cleveland while he was a Celtic. He doesn’t want to hear the boos that would surely come when he was announced and possibly whenever he touched the ball.
This is the first of 4 meetings between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Boston on March 3. They will also play twice in Brooklyn with the first coming in just 2 days on November 29 and the second on March 21. The Celtics lead the series all time 129-67 overall and 69-30 in Boston.
The Celtics are 6-0 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Nets are 4-5 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10. The Celtics are looking for their second straight win while the Nets are on a 4 game win streak. The Nets are 4-7 with Kyrie in the lineup and they are 5-1 without him since he went out with the injury. I wonder if Nets fans are already asking the question as to whether they are better without Kyrie.
Daniel Theis will miss his second straight game with an illness. Enes Kanter started at Center on Monday and I’m going to guess he will start this game also. Romeo Langford is assigned to the G-League but is also out with an ankle injury. Gordon Hayward remains out with the hand injury although he is shooting already. Kemba Walker has passed all of the tests on his neck and is listed as probable for this game.
Tremont Waters was called up from the Red Claws and played very well in his NBA debut against the Kings. With Kemba probable to play in this game, Waters was sent back to the Red Claws. Marcus Smart jammed his index finger twice in Monday’s game. He also is still dealing with a bone bruise on his hip and a tender ankle. He is expected to play despite all the bumps and bruises.
The Nets will be without Kyrie Irving, who did not even travel with the team to Boston. Kevin Durant is out for the season with an Achilles injury. Caris LeVert had surgery on his thumb two weeks ago and will miss this game. He is expected to return mid December. DeAndre Jordan missed Monday’s game with left ankle soreness. He is listed as a game time decision for this game
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Gordon Hayward (hand) out
Romeo Langford (G-League/ankle) out
Daniel Theis (illness) out
Kemba Walker (neck) probable
Marcus Smart (fingers/hip/ankle) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Nets Starters
Kevin Durant (Achilles) out
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) out
Caris LeVert (thumb) out
DeAndre Jordan (ankle) game time decision
Two Way Players
Kemba Walker vs Spencer Dinwiddie
Dinwiddie has been playing very well in Kyrie’s absence. He is averaging 19.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. In Monday’s game he had 23 points and 9 assists. He was last week’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Kemba is anxious to get back and hopefully he won’t have any after effects of the injury.
Jaylen Brown vs Joe Harris
Harris is averaging 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. He is shooting 47% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc. He led the league with 47% three point shooting last season. Jaylen should be well acquainted with Harris after playing on Team USA with him this off season. He needs to stay with him on the perimeter or Harris could have a big night.
Enes Kanter vs Jarrett Allen
I’m assuming that Kanter will start opposite Allen, but it’s also possible that Brad chooses to start Robert Williams. Whoever starts will have their hands full with Allen who is averaging 11.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. In his last game he had 22 points, 21 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He is shooting 67.9% from the floor. He isn’t a threat from outside. The Celtics will need to try to keep him out of the paint where he is dangerous to score and also to rebound.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 102.7. The Celtics need to play tough, in your face defense and not let up. The Celtics are averaging 110.2 points per game to 112.7 points per game for the Nets. The Nets are allowing 113.9 points per game while the Celtics allow just 103.7 points per game. Defense will decide this 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 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 46.1 rebounds per game compared to 47.1 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 48 Minutes - The Celtics need to start strong and not dig themselves into a hole as they have in recent games. They also need to continue to play hard throughout the game and not allow the Nets to make a run. The Celtics must play 100% all out from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing at home, where they have been playing well this season so far with a 6-0 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 4-5 on the road and hopefully the loud Garden fans will rattle the Nets focus a bit.
The Kyrie Factor - Kyrie is not playing in this game. He won’t even be in the building. He may, however, have an effect on the game. The Celtics should be motivated to beat the team that he went to just to show him he made the wrong choice. The Nets will be motivated to beat the Celtics for Kyrie to show they have his back.
Officiating - Just as defense will always be a key to the game, officiating will always be an x-factor. We have already seen a few games where the officiating made a difference between winning and losing for the Celtics. NBA officiating is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates - you never know what you are going to get. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called.