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Boston Celtics (4-0) at Brooklyn Nets (3-2) Game #5 11/4/23

The Celtics look to remain unbeaten when they travel to Brooklyn to face the Nets

NBA: Preseason-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics are coming off a blowout win against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night and will look to continue their hot scoring against the Brooklyn Nets. Boston got the better of the Nets last season winning three of the four regular season games. Last time out, however, Brooklyn beat the C’s in Boston 115-105 with Mikal Bridges scoring 38 for the visitors.

Boston is living up to the preseason hype and showing they can win in multiple facets. From raining threes, and high defensive intensity, to just making the right play, the Celtics look like they’re having fun out there (as you can tell from every Porzingis interview).

Normally, it has taken Jayson Tatum a month or two to get into the rhythm of the league, but this year Tatum has started with a bang. He’s leading the team in scoring (29.8) and rebounding (9.2) and is looking like he wants to not only be in the MVP conversation but to win it. Additionally, on Saturday Tatum can reach another milestone in his career. The All-Star is 16 points shy of 10,000 career points.

Newly acquired Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis have seemingly fit in like a glove. The latter is showing his ability to score from all three areas on the floor, while Holiday is showing why he’s one of the best defenders in the league averaging 1.8 blocks.

The Celtics will be without guard Derrick White and Neemias Queta for Saturday’s matchup. Queta is dealing with a foot injury, while White is out for personal reasons, most likely the birth of his second child.

This will be White’s first game missed since Game 2 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals for the birth of his first child.

The Nets are coming off an in-season tournament win over the Chicago Bulls 109-107 and won their prior game against Miami (109-105) on Wednesday. Brooklyn is proving to be a difficult team to beat, only dropping games to the Dallas Mavericks by five points and the Cleveland Cavaliers by one.

After trading away Kevin Durant last season, the new-look Nets are filled with solid NBA players who are led by Mikal Bridges, Ben Simmons, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Cam Thomas.

Thomas has been on a tear to start the season averaging 25.8 points on 47.9% shooting. The guard is enjoying an increased role already doubling his average minutes played compared to last season.

Matchups to watch

Anyone on the Nets can hurt you but especially their guards Bridges and Thomas. Jrue Holiday will have his hands full and will play a key role in shutting down the opposing guards. Without White, Mazzulla has to decide whether to go with Al Horford or Payton Pritchard with the former more likely to get the nod.

Both Bridges and Thomas can shoot the lights out and if Boston takes Brooklyn lightly, it can come down to the wire.

The next matchup is Porzingis vs Dorian Finney-Smith/Royce O’Neal. Brooklyn’s preferred starting center Nic Claxton has been sidelined with an ankle injury and missed Friday’s matchup with the Bulls with today’s game still in limbo.

Against the Bulls, Jacque Vaughn started Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, Simmons, Bridges and Thomas. Dinwiddie returned after missing the Heat game while Cam Johnson only appeared in one game for Brooklyn and has been out since with an injury.

Against the Heat Brooklyn started Royce O’Neal with Finney-Smith. If Finney-Smith (6’7) or O’Neal (6’6) are going to defend Porzingis (7’3) the Celtics could mimic the game plan they used against the Wizards when Washington’s starting center Daniel Gafford was out. Safe to say, the Celtics took advantage of the smaller Wizards en route to a 126-107 with Porzingis going 7-for-9 for 15 points and had a +/- of 30.

Boston’s spacing is creating looks for everyone and Porzingis’ willingness to pass creates openings for everyone else on the court.

Keys to the game

Composure - The Nets are a gritty team and they are capable of going on big runs. It is important to weather the storm if Brooklyn starts the game off hot. With Boston coming to town the game will be a hot ticket and the Nets fans will be up for the game which could prove to be a tricky game. If Boston comes out fast they could take the sting out and play their own game.

Defense - Brooklyn has multiple players who can go off for 20+ in any given game. Boston’s defense will be critical especially if one of Bridges, Dinwiddie, or Thomas is feeling it. Last season, Bridges had a 38 and a 25-point game against Boston. Pritchard will need to bring his A-game on defense especially with White out.

Rebounds - If Claxton doesn’t play, the C’s have a significant size advantage and need to maximize it. Boston is a strong rebounding team currently ranked first with 52.3 rebounds per game, while Brooklyn is sixth with 47.5 boards. Controlling the glass not only gives you more second chance opportunities, but you can dictate the pace of the game.

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