The Celtics and Nets meet for the second time in 3 days. The Celtics won on Wednesday as Kemba Walker returned from a one game absence to score 39 points to lead the Celtics. The Nets were led by Garrett Temple with 22 points. Kyrie Irving missed that game and didn’t travel to Boston with the team.
The fact that Kyrie wasn’t there didn’t stop the crowd from offering anti-Kyrie chants throughout the game. After the game Kyrie posted a long paragraph on Instagram disparaging fans and the sport. I have to believe that it might have been better if Kyrie at least had traveled to Boston with the team. He may even have gotten a few cheers. But the fact that he didn’t even come to Boston added insult to injury to the Boston crowd.
Kyrie has not played since November 14 when he injured his shoulder and there is no timeline for his return. He has been ruled out for this game against the Celtics. He will likely be at the game, however, unlike Wednesday’s game when he didn’t travel with the team. DeAndre Jordan also missed Wednesday’s game with a sore ankle and is listed as a game time decision for this game. Caris Levert (thumb) and Kevin Durant (Achilles) both remain out.
For the Celtics, both Daniel Theis (illness) and Kemba Walker (neck) returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday after a one game absence. Marcus Smart continues to play through various bumps and bruises. Romeo Langford is nearing a return from an ankle injury but will likely return to Maine when he is healthy. Gordon Hayward remains out with the hand injury but he is shooting and getting closer to a return as well.
The Celtics are 6-4 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Nets are 5-3 at home and 5-5 in their last 10. The Celtics have won two straight while the Nets have lost one after winning their previous 4. The Nets won both games vs the Celtics at the Barclays Center last year but the Celtics have won 11 of the last 13 games against the Nets.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Gordon Hayward (hand) out
Romeo Langford (G-League/ankle) out
Two Way Players
Probable Nets Starters
Kevin Durant (Achilles) out
Caris LeVert (thumb) out
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) out
DeAndre Jordan (ankle) game time decision
Two Way Players
Jaylen Brown vs Joe Harris
Harris is averaging 14.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. He is shooting 48% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. On Wednesday he had 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. He shot an incredible 61.5% from the field and 55.6% from beyond the arc. Jaylen should be well acquainted with Harris after playing on Team USA with him this off season. Needless to say, the Celtics need to play better defense in this game than they did on Wednesday.
Marcus Smart vs Garrett Temple
Temple is averaging 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. He is shooting 40.7% from the field and 35.3% from beyond the arc for the season. However, on Wednesday night against the Celtics, Temple scored 22 points on 57% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. He made 6 three pointers. The Celtics definitely need to stay with him and keep him from going off again in this game.
Daniel Theis vs Jarrett Allen
Allen is averaging 11.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He shoots 68.3% from the field. On Wednesday he had 17 points and 14 rebounds and shot 75% from the field. The Celtics need better defense from their bigs, especially if DeAndre Jordan plays in this one. They definitely need to defend Allen better.
Kemba Walker vs Spencer Dinwiddie
Dinwiddie was the only Nets starter who scored below their season average on Wednesday. He averages 19.6 points and 5.7 assists but on Wednesday was held to 16 points on 26.3% shooting from the field and 25% shooting from the perimeter. On the other hand, Kemba went off for 39 points. Hopefully Kemba continues to score well and the Celtics can keep Dinwiddie below his average again.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to every game. The Celtics definitely need to play better defense throughout the game than they did on Wednesday. They allowed the Nets to get open look after open look, especially from the perimeter where they hit 21 threes on 56 attempts. The Celtics locked down at the end of Wednesday’s game to pull out the win, but they need to play tough defense from the start in his game.
Be Aggressive - The Nets play very hard. They are aggressive on defense and in going after loose balls and driving to the basket. The Celtics need to be even more aggressive going after loose balls, rebounds, and 50/50 balls. 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. Nets are 8th in the league with 14.4 second chance points per game. Both teams are averaging 46.6 rebounds per game. The Celtics beat the Nets on the boards 55-38 on Wednesday and they need to be just as aggressive on the boards in this game.
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.
Road Game - The Celtics are playing on the road where they struggled a bit on their West coast trip. I can imagine that the Nets fans will be loud and antagonistic towards the Celtics after the way the Celtics crowd went after Kyrie on Wednesday. The Celtics 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.
Revenge Factor - The Nets loss on Wednesday to the Celtics will still be very fresh on their mind. They are going to come out looking to avenge that loss and they are going to play even harder than they did on Wednesday. The Celtics have to be ready for that punch and play even harder themselves.
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 refs were bad both ways in Boston. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called.