The Celtics have gone 3-0 so far on their current 4 game home stand and they look to finish a perfect 4-0 as they host the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets swept the Celtics 3-0 in last season’s series. They also beat the Celtics 4-1 in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. The Celtics are 131-72 all time against the Nets and they are 71-32 all time in Boston.
The Celtics have moved up to 6th in the East. They are 5-3 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 3 games. The Nets are first in the Eastern Conference. They are 7-2 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They have also won their last 3 games and 7 of their last 8. They lead the league in road wins with 7 wins out of 9 games on the road.
The Nets have won 4 straight games on the road. The Celtics have won 5 straight at home. This is the Nets second straight road game and they will head home for a 4 game home stand after this game. They played in Cleveland on Monday. The Celtics are finishing up their 4 game home stand and will head out on the road to San Antonio and Toronto after this game.
Jaylen Brown returned to the Celtics starting lineup on Monday after missing 8 games with a sore hamstring. He said that the hamstring was still a little tight after Monday’s game and he is listed as questionable for this game for rest and injury management. If Jaylen can’t play, I expect Dennis Schroder to once again be in the starting lineup. Josh Richardson missed Monday’s game with a non-covid illness and is listed as questionable for this game. Both will be a game time decision. Robert Williams is a late add to the injury list with a non-covid illness.
For the Nets, Kyrie Irving remains out due to his refusal to get vaccinated against covid. The Nets have been playing very well without him and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for this stand off. Bruce Brown is out with a hamstring injury. Nic Claxton is out with a non-covid illness. Joe Harris is out with an ankle injury. I’ve included the starting lineup from the Nets game notes.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) questionable
Josh Richardson (illness) questionable
Robert Williams III (illness) questionable
Probable Nets Starters
PG: James Harden
SG: Patty Mills
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: DeAndre Bembry
C: Blake Griffin
Bruce Brown (hamstring) out
Nic Claxton (illness) out Joe Harris (ankle) out
Kyrie Irving (not injury related) out
Joe Harris (ankle) out
Two Way Players
David Duke, Jr
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Durant
Durant is arguably the best player in the NBA right now. He is having a very good season, averaging 28.5 points (first in the league), 7.8 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. He is shooting 49.6% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc. Tatum has gotten back to his all star form after struggling earlier in the season. Hopefully he will continue to play well in this game.
Marcus Smart vs James Harden
Harden is averaging 20.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game. He is shooting 42.0% from the field and 37.3% from beyond the arc. Harden has gotten to the line more than any other player over the past few years. He has complained loudly about the decrease in his free throws this season but he still gets to the line quite a bit. Marcus Smart has had success defending Harden in the past, drawing 2 offensive fouls and frustrating him down the stretch for a Celtics win. Hopefully he can take up residence in Harden’s head once again in this game.
Jaylen Brown vs Patty Mills
Mills is averaging 11.9 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. He is shooting 45.2% from the field and 39.1% from beyond the arc. He is capable of putting up lots of points and so the Celtics need to respect his shot and not double off of him. Jaylen Brown may be out of this game for rest and if so, Dennis Schroder will likely move back into the starting lineup at shooting guard.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics defense has been improving quite a bit since the start of the season. They have moved up to 6th with a defensive rating of 104.3. The Nets are just 2 spots behind them in 8th with a defensive rating of 104.7. The Nets as a team shoot very well from three and also inside the arc. The Celtics won’t out-shoot the Nets and so they must play tough team defense if they hope to win.
Rebound - In order to score, the Celtics need the ball and to get the ball, they will need to crash the boards as a team. The Celtics average 46.9 rebounds per game while the Nets average 44.2 rebounds per game. Much of rebounding is effort and when the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards, it usually carries over into the rest of their game. The Celtics must come into the game determined to work hard and to hustle for every rebound.
Be Aggressive for 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to play with effort and energy for the entire game with no let up. They need to start strong and play hard throughout the game. They have to be aggressive when they go to the basket, when they go after rebounds, when they defend, and when they go after loose balls. They have to be the team that plays harder and that wants the game more.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics and Nets both average under 14 turnovers per game. The Celtics can’t afford to get sloppy and turn the ball over against the Nets because the Nets will definitely make them pay with fast break points and points off turnovers. The Celtics have to move the ball but they have to make careful passes and they have to be careful not to get sloppy and allow the Nets to steal the ball.
Injuries - It goes without saying that the Celtics would much rather have Jaylen Brown than not. If he can’t play, everyone needs to step up to fill in for his 24.9 points per game. On the other side, the Nets are missing Joe Harris, who is a key player for them, and two other rotation players. They haven’t had Kyrie all season and so his absence likely doesn’t affect the game.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. Some referees call the game tight and others let them play. Some favor the home team and others call it evenly. James Harden has been very vocal in his criticism of the officiating this season and his free throw attempts are down from last season and from his career average. He still is taking almost 7 free throws per game, however. The Celtics have to play through whatever calls go against them and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus on the game.