The Celtics continue their home stand with a visit from Atlantic Division rivals, the Brooklyn Nets. This is the 4th and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 103-92 in Brooklyn on December 4 and they won the second meeting 109-98, also in Brooklyn, on January 12. They won the third meeting 139-96 in Boston on February 1.
The Nets are a much different team than they were when these two teams last met. Four of the 5 starters weren’t even on the team when they met on February 1. The Nets have lost 6 straight to the Celtics and 10 straight if you include the playoffs. They have lost their last 6 games on the road. The Celtics haven’t swept the Nets since the 2017-18 season.
Brooklyn is playing in their second straight road game, having lost to the Knicks on the road on Wednesday. They will play at home vs Charlotte on Sunday before heading out on a 5 game Western road trip. The Celtics are playing in their second game of a 3 game home stand. They will host the Knicks on Sunday before playing in Cleveland on Monday.
The Celtics remain in 2nd place, half a game behind Milwaukee. They are 4.5 ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia and 7 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland. They are 1 game ahead of West leading Denver. The Celtics are 25-7 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 28-13 vs Eastern Conference teams and 9-2 vs the Atlantic Division. They won their last game.
The Nets are in 6th place, 10.5 games behind 2nd place Boston and 2 games behind 5th place New York. They are 1.5 games ahead of 7th place Miami and 5.5 games ahead of 11th place Chicago. They are 16-16 on the road and 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 24-17 against Eastern Conference teams and 6-8 against the Atlantic Division. They have lost their last 4 games.
The Celtics have only Danilo Gallinari on the injury list as he continues to rehab his torn ACL. For the Nets, Ben Simmons will miss a fourth consecutive game due to left knee soreness. Edmond Sumner played since Feb. 7, with his last 2 absences due to the birth of his child. Yuta Watanabe (was cleared to play on Wednesday against the Knicks, however he is back on the injury list for Friday’s game against the Celtics.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Probable Nets Starters
PG: Spencer Dinwiddie
SG: Mikal Bridges
SF: Cam Johnson
PF: Dorian Finney-Smith
C: Nic Claxton
Two Way Players
David Duke, Jr
Ben Simmons (knee) out
Edmond Sumner (personal) out
Yuta Watanabe (back) out
Jaylen Brown vs Mikal Bridges
Bridges came to the Nets from Phoenix in the Kevin Durant trade at the deadline. He is averaging 17.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He is shooting 47.0% from the field and 39.7% from beyond the arc. Against Boston this season (with Phoenix) Bridges averaged 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. He shot 34.4% from the field but didn’t shoot a 3 pointer. Bridges is a good 3 point shooter and so the Celtics have to stay with him on the perimeter as well as keep him from driving to the basket.
Marcus Smart vs Spencer Dinwiddie
Dinwiddie came to the Nets from Dallas in the trade at the deadline. He is averaging 17.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He is shooting 44.8% from the field and 39.3% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season (with Dallas) he averaged 16.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He shot 52.2% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. He is capable of having a big game if not defended well.
Jayson Tatum vs Cam Johnson
Johnson came over to the Nets from Phoenix at the trade deadline. He is averaging 15.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He is shooting 48.5% from the field and 42.6% from beyond the arc. This will be his first game against the Celtics this season. The Celtics need to keep him from getting open behind the 3 point line. Hopefully Jayson Tatum will pick up where he left off in the last game and have another very good game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have slowly climbed to 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.2. The Nets have played decent defense this season but after sitting 10th in the league at the deadline, they have dropped to 20th with a defensive rating of 114.2. The Nets are a good offensive team and are 2nd in field goal percentage at 49.8% and second with a 3 point percentage of 38.7%. 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 to beat the Nets on the boards. The Celtics are pulling down 45.0 rebounds per game, which is 8th in the league. The Nets are 29th with 40.0 rebounds per game. Of course, the Nets are 2nd in field goal percentage and 2nd in 3 point percentage so there aren’t as many rebounds to be had. The Nets are 17-4 when they out-rebound their opponents so the Celtics have to put out extra effort to get to beat the Nets on the boards.
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 11-2 when they lead after the first quarter on the road 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. This Nets team without stars play hard and win by giving more effort than their opponents.
Stay Focused - The Celtics must stay focused on playing the right way. They have to focus on making good passes and not turning the ball over. They have to focus on taking good shots and making them. They have to focus on playing tough defense and on boxing out to get rebounds. They have to focus on playing team ball and not on the officiating.
Home Game - The Nets have a 16-16 record away from Barclays Center. The Celtics have played well at home with a 25-7 record at the TD Garden. 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.
Underestimating - It would be easy for the Celtics to underestimate this Nets team. They have won the first 3 games against them, even with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. With the stars gone, they could underestimate them further and come in expecting an easy win without having to play hard. However, this Nets team plays hard and if the Celtics don’t match that effort, they may be surprised with a loss.
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. They also need to stop complaining after every call because that only seems to antagonize the refs.