The Celtics begin a 3 game road trip with a stop in Brooklyn to take on the Atlantic Division rival Nets. The Celtics won the series between these two teams 3-1 last season with the Celtics only loss to them in Boston. The Celtics also swept the Nets in last year’s playoff 4-0. Kyrie Irving left the Celtics with hard feelings on both sides and even made a point to stomp on Lucky at center court after a playoff game.
The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games. They are 6-0 so far in the second of back to back games. They are 5-0 when they are on the road and they are 3-0 when the games are home and then away. The Celtics have two more games on the road before facing the Warriors at home and then they head out on another 3 game road trip.
While the Celtics are playing in back to back games, the Nets are well rested. They last played on Sunday when they beat the Heat by 1 point in Miami. This is the 2nd of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 103-92 in Brooklyn on December 4. That was Brooklyn’s only loss in December. They will meet twice more in Boston on February 1 and March 3.
The Celtics remain first in the East with the Nets just 2 games behind them in 2nd place. The Bucks are 2.5 games back and 76ers and Cavaliers are 4 games back. The Celtics are 13-7 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 4-0 against Atlantic Division teams and 16-8 against other Eastern Conference opponents. The Celtics have won their last 4 games.
The Nets have climbed to 2nd in the East after going 14-1 in December. They are 2 games behind Boston and half a game ahead of Milwaukee. They are 2 games ahead of both Philadelphia and Cleveland. The Nets are 13-5 at home and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They are 20-7 against Eastern Conference opponents and 5-3 against Atlantic Division teams. They have won their last 2 games.
For the Celtics, Danilo Gallinari remains out with the ACL tear. Marcus Smart (knee) and Robert Williams (knee) missed the game against the Pelicans but are not on today’s injury list and should be in the starting lineup. Al Horford (back) played in the first half of the back to back and will sit for this game. Jaylen Brown is questionable due to left adductor tightness.
For the Nets, Kevin Durant is out after having Jimmy Butler land on his knee in Sunday’s win over the Heat. He is expected to possibly be out for a month with an MCL sprain. Nic Claxton is listed as probable for this game with a shoulder impingement. I’m guessing that Yuta Watanabe will start in place of Durant but that’s just a guess.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Jaylen Brown (groin) questionable
Al Horford (back) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Nets Starters
Two Way Players
David Duke, Jr
Kevin Durant (knee) out
Nic Claxton (shoulder) probable
Derrick White vs Kyrie Irving
With Durant out, Kyrie Irving is key to the Nets play. Irving is averaging 26.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. He is shooting 48.8% from the field and 36.6% from beyond the arc. Kyrie still has a chip on his shoulder against the Celtics and will try his best to beat them. Kyrie is a very dangerous scorer and so the Celtics must play tough defense on him to keep him from getting hot. If the Celtics go with Robert Williams in the starting lineup again, Jaylen Brown may start at shooting guard.
Marcus Smart vs Ben Simmons
This will be the Celtics first time facing the Nets with Ben Simmons active. He is averaging 7.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.4 steals. He is shooting 59.2% from the field and has not attempted a 3 pointer this season. He has helped the Nets to pick up their defense and could make it difficult for Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown in this game.
Al Horford vs Nic Claxton
Claxton is averaging 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.6 blocks per game. He is shooting 73.8% from the field and, like Simmons, has not attempted a 3 pointer this season. He is a rim protector and will make it harder for the Celtics to score inside.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have slowly climbed to 7th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.9. The Nets, however are right there with them at 9th in the league the league with a defensive rating of 111.5. The Nets are a good offensive team and if the Celtics want to win this game they need to get a strong defensive effort from every player on the court and they need to make defense a priority throughout the game.
Rebound - The Celtics must box out and crash the boards. They can’t score without the ball and it will take extra effort on their part beat the Nets on the boards. The Celtics are pulling down 44.0 rebounds per game, which is 11th in the league. The Nets are 29th with 40.5 rebounds per game. Of course, the Nets lead the league in field goal percentage (52.2%) and are 2nd in 3 point percentage (39.2%) so there aren’t as many rebounds to be had. The Nets are 14-1 when they out-rebound their opponents so the Celtics have to put out more effort to get to the rebounds before the Nets and give themselves extra possessions.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to come out and be aggressive right from the opening tip. They have to be aggressive on defense, driving to the basket, rebounding, diving for loose balls and just playing harder in general. The Nets are 20-3 when they lead after the first quarter and so the Celtics must get off to a strong start and not fall behind early. They also have to play hard right up until the final buzzer. They can’t let the Nets outwork them for any period of time.
Play the Right Way - The Celtics need to play the right way. They need to share the ball and keep it moving and make the extra pass to get the best shots. They need to trust their teammates and not lapse into hero ball. They have to box out and crash the boards as a team. They have to play with energy and effort and stay focused on playing the right way, including playing tough lock down defense.
Road Game and Fatigue - The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back. They have had travel between Boston and Brooklyn after playing at home on Wednesday night. They will be playing in front of a hostile crowd. The Celtics need to focus on the game and not on the distractions of travel and playing in an unfamiliar arena in front of hostile fans. The Nets are very well rested while the Celtics will need to fight fatigue down the stretch.
Revenge - The Nets are going to be out for revenge in this game. The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season and then embarrassed them in the playoffs with a 4-0 sweep. And the Celtics also took the first game this season. Kyrie is looking to avenge whatever perceived wrongs he feels from the Celtics. I have no doubt that the Nets are going to play their best game to try to embarrass the Celtics.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. Sometimes a crew will call the game tight and blow a whistle on every play. Other times they will let them play and let the game get physical. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the game is called and not let missed calls or bad calls affect their focus. If the calls are bad, they just need to play harder to make up for them and not waste time arguing with the officials.