Tonight, the Boston Celtics take on the Brooklyn Nets following their important win against the Indiana Pacers just last night. It was Kyrie Irving hitting a game-winner with about 0.5 seconds left to put the Celtics on top 114-112. This gave the Celtics the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference currently and a tie-breaker against the Pacers going forward. Now, they have got to get right back out there taking on the Nets in front of a rowdy Saturday night crowd.
The Nets are fighting for their own playoff spot as they sit in the seventh seed in the East, but they are bunched up in the six through ten seed range all within three games of each other. With a loss tonight, the Nets move all the way down to the nine seed. With only six games remaining, the bottom seeds of the Eastern Conference standings will get pretty crazy down the stretch.
As for the Celtics, their focus should be to maintain the four seed. We saw last night that homecourt will be important to the team against the Pacers. It is going to be a battle between these two teams, so if they can have a game 7 at home or go up 2-0, it will be because they keep focus and hold on to this spot.
The keys for the Celtics tonight will be denying the guards from taking over and dominating this game, mainly D’Angelo Russell. The Nets live and die by their guard play and had one of the most underrated backcourts in the league with Russell and LeVert at full strength. Unfortunately, LeVert has yet to get back to 100% since his awful leg injury, but it is a near miracle he is already at playing at an NBA level again.
It is first worth noting that the Nets rank fifth in the league in three-point attempts per game just above the Celtics who rank sixth in the league. This game tonight will probably come down to a three-point shooting contest with both teams going up and down the court jacking up threes. This becomes a negative for the Nets because they only rank fifteenth in the league in three-point percentage at 35.3% on the season. Many losses for the Nets come down to their percentage from the arc.
Another point of emphasis for the Nets offense is their free throw attempts per game. The team ranks third in the league in free throws per game. It is a completely flip from the Celtics who rank 29th. Even as the fans and media have been on the Celtics for their lack of free throw attempts, the Nets show how it may not always make an impact in the final scoreboard. Brooklyn drive to the rim often, but they only shoot 74.3% from the line, 24th in the league. That mark does not result well in the strategy of attacking the rim with so much consistency. However, the Celtics shoot 80.4% as a team, so the point still stands with this bunch.
On a second night of a back-to-back, the Celtics will be without Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. It is smart to sit these two because of load management this far into the season. Seeding is important, but the real season begins in the playoffs, so we will need everyone at peak performance. Also, Jayson Tatum will be questionable for this one with an illness. This sickness seems to have come as a surprise, but he only played 24 minutes last night, so he may have been affected by this bug yesterday as well.
The Nets may only be without Allen Crabbe. He has sat out the past few games, and he will be questionable for this game with a knee injury.
The Celtics may be very shorthanded in this contest against the Nets, however, as we have seen before, this team sometimes plays better with less players in the rotation. Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward are going to need to step up against a smaller guard heavy lineup. The Nets always play the Celtics hard, and it is what everyone should expect heading into tonight’s game.
PG – Terry Rozier – D’Angelo Russell
SG – Marcus Smart – Caris LeVert
SF– Jayson Tatum – Joe Harris
PF – Marcus Morris – Rodions Kurucs
C – Aron Baynes – Jarrett Allen
Boston –Kyrie Irving (Rest); Al Horford (Knee Soreness/rest); Jayson Tatum (Illness)
Brooklyn- Allen Crabbe (Knee)
How To Watch
Time- 6:00 EST
TV– NBC Sports Boston