The Celtics return home from a 3 game road trip to face the the Brooklyn Nets for the 2nd of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics beat the Nets 124-114 on November 4 in Brooklyn. They will meet again in Brooklyn on February 12 and then they will play in Boston two nights later on February 14. The Nets come into this game on a 3 game road win streak. The Celtics have lost their last 2 games, both on the road.
Last season, the Celtics won the series 3-1. They won 1 game in Boston and two games in Brooklyn but lost the final game of the series in Boston. The Celtics are 138-73 overall all time against the Nets. They are 73-33 in games that were played in Boston. Along with being division rivals, these two teams are also in the same group in pool play for the In Season Tournament.
The teams in East Group C include the Celtics, the Nets, the Raptors, the Bulls and the Magic. This is Brooklyn’s second game in pool play, having won over the Chicago Bulls 109-107 on Friday in their first tournament game. This is the Celtics first tournament game. Their next game in pool play will be on Friday, November 17 on the road in Toronto.
This is the first of a 3 game home stand for the Celtics after returning from a 1-2 road trip. This is the first game of the Celtics first back to back set this season. They host the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. They will host the Knicks on Monday before heading back on the road to face the 76ers in Philadelphia. Brooklyn is on the road for one game between two home games before and 2 home games after.
Two Way player Neemias Queta is once again on the injury list for the Celtics with a foot injury. Al Horford is listed as out for right knee injury management, likely due to the back to back. The Nets have 3 players out. Starting center Nic Claxton listed as out with an ankle sprain. Cam Thomas is listed as out after spraining his ankle against the Clippers on Wednesday. Dariq Whitehead is out as he rehabs from off season foot surgery.
Ben Simmons is listed as questionable with a hip injury. He has missed 2 of the last 3 games. Cam Johnson is listed as probable for this game after missing the last 7 games with a calf injury. With two possible starters listed as a game time decision, I’m just guessing at the Nets’ starting lineup. If Simmons can play, he will obviously start at the point and Dinwiddie will likely move to shooting guard. Cam Johnson will likely have a minutes restriction and so will likely come off the bench for his first game back.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Neemias Queta (foot) out
Al Horford (right knee injury management) out
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
Harry Giles III
Dennis Smith, Jr
Two Way Players
Nic Claxton (ankle) out
Cam Johnson (calf) probable
Dariq Whitehead (foot) out
Ben Simmons (hip) questionable
Cam Thomas (ankle) out
Jaylen Brown vs Mikal Bridges
With the Nets leading scorer, Cam Thomas, out, the key matchups will likely be Brown vs Bridges. Bridges is averaging 20.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. He is shooting 47.2% from the field and 37.9% from beyond the arc. Jaylen Brown is coming off a game where he struggled and the Celtics will need him to get back on track in this one.
Kristaps Porzingis vs Dorian Finney-Smith
Finney-Smith is averaging 13.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. He is shooting 48.2% from the field and 45.3% from beyond the arc. Porzingis has a height advantage but both centers like to play on the perimeter and Finney-Smith is a very good 3 point shooter.
Derrick White vs Lonnie Walker IV
As stated above, if Simmons returns, Dinwiddie will likely move to shooting guard. If Simmons remains out, I’m guessing that Walker will start here. Walker is averaging 16.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists off the bench. He is shooting 51.9% from the field and 43.2% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist off the bench. He shot 62.5% from the field and 50% on threes.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have climbed to 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 105.6. The Nets are 24th in the league with a defensive rating of 114.5. The Nets are a good offensive team averaging 115.4 points per game (11th). The Celtics are 3rd in the league averaging 120.6 points per game. The Celtics have to especially guard the perimeter as the Nets are 4th in 3 point Percentage with 38.5% and they are first in corner 3 percentage at 48.9%. The Celtics 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 Nets are 10th with 45.8 rebounds per game while the Celtics are 2nd with 49.6 rebounds per game. The Celtics must beat the Nets to rebounds to prevent second chance points and to give themselves extra possessions.
Move the Ball - The Celtics are 25th in the league with 23.7 assists per game. They play best when they keep the ball moving and find the open man. Things never end well when they lapse into hero ball. They need to move the ball and look for each other to get the best possible shot. The more assists they rack up, usually means they are playing very well.
Don’t Die by the Three - The Celtics have to take the ball inside if their 3’s aren’t falling. They took 47 threes against the 76ers and hit just 31.9% of them. Too often they dribbled up the court and stopped at the 3 point line to launch one without passing the ball or looking for a better shot. When they are hitting their 3’s, it’s great, but then they aren’t, they need to find another way to score.
Bench Play - The Celtics have to get more from their bench. They have some good scorers coming off the bench but they have not be consistent. The Nets got 45 points from their bench on Wednesday versus the Clippers while the Celtics got just 16 points from their bench on Wednesday versus the 76ers. The Celtics need more consistent scoring from their reserves if they want to win consistently.
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 play very hard and the Celtics need to match their effort and aggressiveness. They also have to play hard right up until the final buzzer. This Nets team without stars play hard and win by giving more effort than their opponents.
Home Game - The Celtics have played well at home so far. They need to feed off the energy of the crowd and hopefully, the Nets will be distracted by travel and the very loud crowd. The Celtics need to protect home court. However, the Nets have a 3 game road win streak going and so will be tough to beat.
In Season Tournament - This is the second IST game for the Nets and the first for the Celtics. There will be the distraction of a strange court and the added pressure of trying to win the game so as to get a leg up in the tournament. Since the Nets have already won their first Tournament game, the pressure will be on the Celtics to win their first 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. Some refs just seem to have an agenda that doesn’t fit the events on the court. At times they miss important calls that change the momentum of the game. 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.