The Celtics look to start another win streak as they host the Brooklyn Nets. This is the third of four games this season between these two division rivals. The Celtics won the first game in Boston 121-110 on November 27. Then, two days later, on November 29, the Nets evened the series at 1-1 as they beat the Celtics 112-107 in Brooklyn.
The Celtics are 3rd in the East, just half a game behind the Toronto Raptors, who are playing the Suns on the road, and 3 games ahead of the Heat, who are in 4th place. The Celtics are 23-6 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 7-5 against other Atlantic Division teams. They are looking to get back on track after losing their last game.
The Nets are holding down the 8th seed in the East, tied with the 7th place Magic and 4 games ahead of the Washington Wizards. They are 10-20 on the road and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 5-9 against other Atlantic Division teams and they have lost their last 4 games.
Both teams are playing on the first night of back to back games. The Celtics will play the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Wednesday while the Nets will play the Grizzlies at home on Wednesday. Both teams are 4-4 in the first of back to back games. The Nets have lost 7 straight games in Boston. They last won there on 1/2/16.
Kemba Walker practiced with the team on Monday and felt good at Tuesday shoot around is expected to be available for this game. He missed the last 5 games and will be on a minutes restriction. Just as they hoped to have a full roster finally, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum missed Monday’s practice with an illness.
Tatum missed the shoot around on Tuesday, but Smart was back on the court and is expected to start with Tatum expected to miss the game. I’m going to guess that Smart will start at shooting guard while Brown moves to small forward and Hayward slides to power forward as they did one other time when Tatum was out.
The first time these two teams met in Boston, there was a buzz over whether Kyrie would play in the game but he missed that game along with the one in Brooklyn two nights later with a shoulder injury. He is scheduled for season ending surgery on the shoulder and will miss this game also. Kevin Durant will miss the entire season with the Achilles injury. Garrett Temple is questionable with a shoulder injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Marcus Smart (illness) probable
Jayson Tatum (illness) doubtful
Kemba Walker (knee) available
Two Way Players
Probable Nets Starters
Kevin Durant (Achilles) out
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) out
Garrett Temple (shoulder) questionable
Two Way Players
Kemba Walker vs Spencer Dinwiddie
Dinwiddie has been playing very well in Kyrie’s absence. He is averaging 20.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. He is shooting 41.6% from the field and 30.9% from beyond the arc. In the two games against the Celtics so far, he averaged 24 points, 4 rebounds and 11 assists. He scored 32 points in their win. Kemba is anxious to get back and hopefully he won’t have any after effects of the injury but will be on a minutes limit. We would see Smart on Dinwiddie at times if he can play but it’s not certain at this time if he will.
Marcus Smart vs Caris LeVert
LeVert is averaging 16.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He is shooting 39.9% from the field and 36.8% from beyond the arc. Smart will need to play well on both ends of the court as the Celtics will need his offense if Kemba is rusty and Tatum can’t play.
Jaylen Brown vs Joe Harris
Harris is averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He is shooting 46.5% from the field and 40.9% from beyond the arc. Jaylen needs to stay with him, especially on the perimeter, or Harris could have a big night.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. The Celtics have slipped to 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 105.9. The Nets are a good defensive team as well with a defensive rating of 108.2 (9th). The Celtics need to play tough, in your face defense and not let up. The Celtics are averaging 113.4 points per game to 110.6 points per game for the Nets. The Nets are allowing 111.2 points per game while the Celtics allow 106.6 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.
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 Nets are 7th with 13.9 second chance points per game. The Celtics have to give extra effort to beat the Nets to the boards.
Bench Play - The Celtics starters scored 106 of the Celtics total of 110 points in the game against the Houston Rockets. With Kemba playing limited minutes and Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum both questionable, the Celtics must get more from their bench. They can’t depend on the starters to carry that kind of a load in every game. The reserves must step up.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing at home, where they have been playing well this season losing only 6 games at the Garden so far. They should get a boost from the fans and benefit from the familiar surroundings. The Nets on the other hand are just 10-20 on the road and hopefully the loud Garden fans will rattle the Nets focus a bit.
Injuries - The Celtics hopefully will get Kemba back for limited minutes but will likely be missing both Jayson Tatum. Also, Marcus Smart may not be 100% after missing practice yesterday with an illness. It has to be next man up and every player has to pick up their game to make up for the players who aren’t at 100%.
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 and not let bad calls take away their focus.