Both coming off of tough games, Atlantic Division rivals Boston Celtics (25-17) and Brooklyn Nets (21-23) look to rebound from losses, as well as gain in the playoff race.
The teams met just last week, where the Celtics handled the Nets easily in a 116-95 win Monday night at Boston — a game where Brooklyn was horrendous allowing 30 points off of 25 turnovers.
Now the Nets will look for revenge tonight in Brooklyn, New York City.
And this isn’t the same Nets team from the last few years either, and that’s evident of Brooklyn going 13-5 in their last 18 games. But there’s a problem with the record.
Against winning teams, the Nets’ record is 6-13. And the fashion that the team has been losing in hasn’t been brilliant either. Other than the blowout loss against Boston, Brooklyn also recently got manhandled by the Toronto Raptors in a 122-105 loss — a game where they trailed by 26 at one time and were outscored by a pace of 71-40 in the second and third quarters.
The Nets need to look at tonight as an opportunity to get things right against winning organizations, because things aren’t getting any easier for them. Before the All-Star break, Brooklyn still has eight games left against over .500 teams — including a trip to Houston and yet another visit to Boston.
Here’s a bright spot for the Nets entering the game tonight though: The only time that Brooklyn has lost consecutive games in this 18-game stretch was when they played Milwaukee back on December 28-29. That streak will face a tremendous test against the Celtics tonight.
That’s especially true when you look at the shooting struggles of the Nets. In the loss against Toronto, D’Angelo Russell was the only one who achieved success with 24 points — the rest of the team, except one, failed to hit double figures. They only hit 42% of their shots.
Boston comes in facing problems of their own. They head to Brooklyn looking to avoid three consecutive losses for the third time this season. Good news for the Celtics, however, they won seven out of their last nine before taking losses against the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic last week.
They’re also facing chemistry issues. Boston’s Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown got into a shoving match during a timeout against the Heat. A couple of nights later, chemistry problems showed itself again when the Celtics blew a 12-point lead against Orlando to lose the game.
And that’s not all. After Jayson Tatum missed the potential game-tying shot, Kyrie Irving appeared frustrated and let it out on Gordon Hayward after he had inbounded the ball early. After the game, Irving then went on to vent about the inexperience of Boston’s youth, and only being No. 5 in the Eastern Conference standings — this after lighting up the scoreboard with 25 points while his teammates only shot 29% from the field.
Speaking of Kyrie Irving, he’s questionable tonight against the Brooklyn Nets with a right quad contusion. Obviously, this is a huge factor that the Nets could take advantage of being at home.
The problem is: Brooklyn is 0-10 in their last 10 games against the Boston Celtics.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CHECK THE NUMBERS
Other than the defensive side of things, the Celtics don’t really have an edge in any of the statistical categories. In offensive production, Boston has the narrow +1 edge in points-per-game at 111.9 PPG — they shoot at a 45.8 FG% mark, which is only a +0.5 advantage. On the glass, the Celtics are actually in the negative here, but like their advantages, it’s only narrow. They trail the Nets with a 45.1 RPG average. Here’s where Boston has them though: A +6 advantage in ball protection — Boston sits at 105.6 PA.
On the offensive side for the Brooklyn Nets, they level up evenly with the Boston Celtics only trailing -1 at 110.7 — they also line up with Boston in shooting percentage, only having a -0.5 disadvantage with 45.3 FG%. On the rebounding end, Brooklyn holds the extremely narrow edge at +0.4 at 45.4 RPG. Like previously mentioned, however, the Nets have a problem on the defensive side against the Boston Celtics. They have a -6 disadvantage hitting over the 110 mark at 111.5 PA — not something you want facing off against a Kyrie Irving.
With Brooklyn being at home and the statistics being nearly identical, you have to like the Nets’ chances of pulling off the upset over Boston — especially with the latest struggles and issues that the Celtics are undergoing.
My only question for Brooklyn is if they can keep up with the scoring of Kyrie Irving — assuming he’s playing — Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and the rest of the high-scoring C’s. On paper, they can, but can they keep the consistency of their 45.3 FG%? That’s what concerns me with their top-scorer De’Angelo Russell only hitting 42.9% of his shots. If the percentage is low, the Nets won’t be able to get around the -6 disadvantage on defense.
With Boston desperately wanting to avoid a third straight loss, I can see an excellent brand of basketball coming from them tonight. Things won’t be easy on the road though, I can see Brooklyn keeping things close to scare the Celtics in their ‘struggle phase’. Eventually, Boston has to break out of this slump though before the playoffs start in April, and you think they will considering their cast. And why not get things started tonight at losing 21-23 Brooklyn?
Celtics win a playoff positioning dog-fight to begin their tune-up.