Nobody’s expected it before the season started, but the matchup tonight between the Brooklyn Nets (20-21) and Boston Celtics (23-15) brings us a battle between two playoff teams.
The Celtics currently sit at 5th in the Eastern Conference, while the Nets sit at the No. 7 position.
Entering the game tonight, both teams are on winning streaks. Boston has won two in a row after beating the Dallas Mavericks, 114-93, on Friday night. Brooklyn, on the other hand, is sitting on a three-game win streak and their last win was on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls, 117-100.
Going by the Celtics’ standards, they’ve struggled a bit going 5-5 in their last 10 games — this due to a flurry of injuries.
Boston’s star Kyrie Irving has been out the past two games with a left eye injury, but will be back tonight to face off against the Nets. Power forward Marcus Morris has a possibility of returning tonight, this after missing Friday’s game against Dallas with a sore neck. Center Aron Baynes has been out since December 19 with a broken left hand, he’s expected to return this month and will most likely be out again tonight.
For Brooklyn, they’ve been over-succeeding expectations in spectacular fashion this season. Since December 7, the Nets have won 12 out of their last 15 games — the great play has shot them up to the 7th position in the East and battling for the postseason. This success is the best stretch that the Brooklyn Nets have been on since their relocation from New Jersey.
The headlines going into the game speak for themselves: This is going to be a fun one — and how can you not enjoy any kind of New York City-Boston rivalry?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Though not lethal in putting points up on the board, the Celtics will need to apply pressure on Ed Davis in order to stop his rebounding. He’s been a force this year in the paint averaging 8.5 RPG. In the past five games, Davis has tallied at least 10 rebounds in three of those games — 13 against the Chicago Bulls, 12 against the New Orleans Pelicans and 11 against the Charlotte Hornets. If Boston can contain Davis, they’ll take a huge weight off of their shoulders in the process.
CHECK THE NUMBERS
The Brooklyn Nets have been playing fantastic since early December, and it shows on paper — comparing to the Boston Celtics evenly in nearly every category. In PPG, they have a steaming 111.1 and shooting a smooth 45.5%. The defense hasn’t been the best, however, tallying more than their offensive number at 111.4. Going back to being solid though, that’s what they’ve been on the rebounding end: They average 44.9 RPG.
The Boston Celtics come in with the statistical edge in every category, but it’s not by much. In offensive production, they only have a tight +0.7 grip on the Nets tallying 111.8 PPG. They have the narrow +0.2 advantage in shooting at 45.7%. In rebounding, it’s more of the same: A +0.3 edge at 45.2 RPG. Here’s where the win may come into edge for the Celtics though, other than having Kyrie Irving and being at home: They have a +6 advantage on the defensive end, sitting at 105.6 PA.
Brooklyn has been playing spectacular as of late. As I mentioned earlier, the Nets have won 12 out of their last 15 games. In the statistical comparison, they also line up with the Celtics evenly. And let’s also not forget the rebounding force that Brooklyn has with Ed Davis, he’s certain to cause problems for the Nets tonight.
But let’s remember: They’re still playing the Boston Celtics, and the odds aren’t really in their favor. The Celtics are home at TD Garden tonight, and not just that, but the Nets just don’t have the firepower to compete with a Kyrie Irving and a Gordon Hayward. And the -6 disadvantage doesn’t help the Nets’ cause either.
Brooklyn keeps it close and competitive to provide us an entertaining game as a result, but the Celtics get the close win in this New York-Boston battle.