The Celtics return from the All Star break with a visit to the Brooklyn Nets for the 3rd of 4 games this season. The Nets won the first game between these two teams 123-104 in Boston on November 24. The Celtics won the second game 126-91in Boston on February 8. The Celtics are 132-73 against the Nets all time. They are 60-40 on the road and 8-9 when playing in the Barclays Center. The Nets won the series 3-0 last season.
The Celtics are 6th in the East. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games and 14-15 on the road. The Celtics won 9 straight before losing to Detroit before the break. They are 7-6 against Atlantic Division teams and 24-15 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are just 2 games behind 3rd place Philadelphia, 4th place Cleveland and 5th place Milwaukee, who are all tied. The Celtics are 4.5 games behind 1st place Miami and 2nd place Chicago, who are also tied. The Celtics are just half a game ahead of 7th place Toronto. The Celtics have 4 games left against the 5 teams ahead of them and one against Toronto, who are just half a game behind them.
The Nets are 8th in the East. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games. They had lost 11 straight games and then won 2 games before a loss to the Wizards just before the break. They are 7-2 against Atlantic Division teams and 21-13 against other Eastern Conference teams. The 8th place Nets are 2.5 games behind the 6th place Celtics and 2 games behind the 7th place Raptors. They are 2.5 games ahead of 9th place Charlotte and 10th place Atlanta, who are tied.
They are the only team in the league with a better road record than home record. They are the top ranked road offense but have just the 27th ranked offense at home. That would be due to Kyrie Irving not playing in home games and playing on the road only. The Nets are just 13-15 at home but 18-13 on the road. The Nets have 10 games left against the 7 teams that are in front of them in the standings, including their first 6 games after the All Star break.
The Celtics are playing in the first game of a 3 game road trip that will take them through Brooklyn, Detroit, and Indiana. They will them have a 3 game home stand against Atlanta, Memphis and Brooklyn once again. After the Nets host Boston, they will then play Milwaukee on the road. They will then have a home and home series with the Raptors. The Celtics bring a 5 game road win streak into this same vs the Nets.
The Celtics expect to have Marcus Smart and Robert Williams back in the starting lineup for this one after they both missed the final game before the break. There are no players on the injury list for the Celtics at this time. The Nets are missing the newly acquired Ben Simmons who is expected to be out until at least March 8 to ramp up his conditioning after not having played this season so far. Kyrie Irving will be out since this is a home game and he still is unvaccinated. Kevin Durant (knee) and Joe Harris (ankle) both remain out.
Probable Celtics Starters
Probable Nets Starters
- Spencer Dinwiddie Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
- Lonnie Walker IV Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images
- Mikal Bridges Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
- Royce O’Neale Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images
- Dorian Finney-Smith Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
Kevin Durant (knee) out
Joe Harris (ankle) out
Kyrie Irving (not injury related) out
Ben Simmons (conditioning) out
David Duke, Jr
Jaylen Brown vs Seth Curry
Curry came over to the Nets in the trade for Ben Simmons and with Kyrie out, he is starting for the Nets. Curry is averaging 15.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He is shooting 48.7% from the field and 46.1% from beyond the arc for the season. In his last game for the Nets, he had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. He has had big games against the Celtics in Philly and the Celtics need to defend him well to keep him from putting up big numbers in this one.
Marcus Smart vs Patty Mills
Mills is averaging 13.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He is shooting 42.5% from the field and 41.9% from beyond the arc. He put up 23 points in the Nets win over the Celtics earlier this season. It will be good to have Marcus Smart back for this one and he needs to keep Mills from having another big game.
Robert Williams III vs Andre Drummond
Drummond came to the Nets from the 76ers in the trade that sent James Harden to Philly. He is averaging 6.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists. He is shooting 50% from the field and isn’t a threat to shoot 3’s. Drummond is a very good rebounder and so the Celtics need to put out extra effort to beat him to rebounds on both ends of the court. It will be good to have Robert Williams back in the lineup also.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics defense has been impressive in recent games, other than in the loss to the Pistons just before the break where they allowed Detroit to shoot 53.3% from beyond the arc. They need to continue to make defense their priority. They have moved up to 2nd with a defensive rating of 104.9. The Nets are 19th with a defensive rating of 111.2. The Nets will be missing KD and Kyrie along with Harris and Simmons, but that shouldn’t allow the Celtics to relax. They need to come out and play as if the Nets are all healthy and the top team in the league. They have to get back to that lock down defense they were playing in their 9 game win streak.
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 46.6 rebounds per game (2nd) while the Nets average 44.8 rebounds per game (14th). 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. They were out-rebounded by the Pistons 47-30 and that shows that they were very short on effort in that game.
Stay Focused and Play Hard - The Celtics need to stay focused on playing the right way. Many of their lapses when they struggle to score and turn the ball over can be explained by a lack of focus. The Celtics must stay focused on making good passes and on taking and making good shots. They have to stay focused on defense and on playing as a team. They have to move the ball and not play hero ball. They can’t lose focus at any time if they want to win this game.
Don’t Underestimate - The Nets had lost 11 straight games before winning two and then losing their last game against the Wizards. They are also still short handed without Kyrie, Durant and Simmons. It would be easy for the Celtics to come in expecting to walk away with this game but they can’t have that mindset. The Nets are still a dangerous team and if the Celtics underestimate them and come in playing less than their best, they could come out with a loss.
Rust vs Rest - Both teams have been off for a week and very few players on either team likely played much basketball over the break. When teams are off for any period of time, many times they are rusty to start the game and it will take very serious focus in order to not get down early. It is a benefit that both teams were off, so whichever team is more focused and ready to play will likely get the win.
Officiating - Just as defense will always be a key to the game, officiating can always be an x-factor. Will they call the game tight or will they let them play? Will they favor the home team? Will they be fair and call it even? The Celtics have to adjust to however the officials are calling the game and not lose their focus while complaining about calls because even in a well called game, there will be missed calls.