Christmas Day games are a tradition in the NBA and it is a matter of pride for teams to get the nod to play in these games. This is the Celtics 4th straight Christmas game and their 34th overall. This is the first Christmas game for the Nets since 2013, which was their 2nd season in Brooklyn and the season that they had Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
These two teams split the series 2-2 last season, but that has little bearing on either team this season. Both teams have changed since last season. The Celtics have added Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague along with a couple of promising rookies. The Nets have waited 18 months to see Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant together and the wait was well worth it as they have dominated so far this season.
The Nets came into the Garden in the preseason and beat the Celtics 113-89. But we saw a much different Celtics team on Wednesday when they faced the Bucks. The Nets faced the Golden State Warriors on opening night and beat them 125-99, with both Kyrie and Durand sitting out the 4th quarter.
The Nets have started the same 5 players in both of their preseason games and also in their season opener. I expect the same 5, barring any injuries to start in this game as well. The Celtics started a different starting lineup in each of their preseason games and again in the season opener. I have listed the starting lineup from the last game but Brad Stevens could very well change the starters once again for this one.
Kemba Walker will once again miss this game with the as he strengthens and rehabs his sore knee. Romeo Langford is still out as he rehabs from off season wrist surgery. Tacko Fall is also expected to be out with an eye injury. For the Nets, Nicolas Claxton is expected to be out with a knee injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Tristan Thompson
C: Daniel Theis
Tremont Waters (2 Way)
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Tacko Fall (eye) out
Robert Williams (illness) questionable
Probable Nets Starters
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Spencer Dinwiddie
SF: Joe Harris
PF: Kevin Durant
C: DeAndre Jordan
Bruce BrownCaris LeVert
Nicolas Claxton (knee) out
Marcus Smart vs Kyrie Irving
Kyrie has been playing very well. He put up 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals against the Celtics in the preseason game and in the opener he had 26 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists against the Warriors in 3 quarters. The Celtics will need Marcus to play tough defense to slow him down in this game.
Tristan Thompson vs Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has also started out strong with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks against the Celtics and 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in 3 quarters vs the Warriors. If Brad starts the double big lineup once again, Thompson will be tasked with trying to limit his effectiveness in this game. It’s also possible that Tatum will move back into the power forward spot to be matched up with Durant.
Jeff Teague vs Caris LeVert
LeVert was a starter for the Nets but now is coming off the bench and playing very well. He had 18 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist vs the Celtics in the preseason game and 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in the Nets’ opener. Jeff Teague has also played well for the Celtics and this should be a good matchup.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics didn’t play a lot of defense in their season opener, allowing the Bucks to score 121 points. The Nets, on the other hand, limited The Warriors to 99 points in their opener. The Celtics will need to play better defense if they want to beat the Nets.
Rebound - Along with defense, rebounding is a key to winning. You have to have the ball to score and one way to get the ball is to grab rebounds. The Nets out-rebounded the Celtics 53-48 in their preseason meeting. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics need to put out the extra effort to beat the Nets to the rebounds.
Play Team Ball - The Celtics built a 17 point lead over the Bucks by passing the ball and finding the open man. They had 23 assists in the first 3 quarters. But they went away from that in the 4th quarter and had no assists in the quarter and were outscored by 16 in the quarter. When they move the ball and find the open man they are tough to beat but when they lapse into hero ball, they struggle.
Play With Energy - The Celtics were sluggish in the preseason and seemed to be a step behind the entire time. They need to start strong and play with energy throughout the game. They have to be the team that plays harder and the team that wants it more. They can’t let the Nets play harder than them.
Home Game - Once again the Celtics are at home. It isn’t the home court advantage that they have when the Garden crowd is there but they are on a familiar court and don’t have to travel or stay in a hotel and they have their family with them for the day so it is an advantage for them.
Pride - The Celtics were trounced by the Nets in the preseason and they should want to get payback for that loss. Kyrie will want to beat his former team and pride is on the line for both teams as they are on the NBA’s biggest stage for this game.
Officiating - Officiating is always an X-Factor. Every crew calls the games differently. Some call them tight and others let them play. Some make the game about them while others are barely noticed. Some make bad calls while others get most calls right. The Celtics need to adjust to how the officials call the game.