Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Well, almost on fire.
Neither of these teams has yet to play the role of the powerhouse they were thought to be, so both organizations will be looking to extend their most recent string of winning ways here.
Plus, in a stacked Atlantic Division, the outcome of this game could prove to have serious playoff implications upon season's end.
Time: Thursday, November 15th, 8:00 p.m. ET
Records: Boston Celtics (5-3), Brooklyn Nets (4-2)
Betting Line: Nets -3
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
Celtics: Avery Bradley (shoulder), out; Rajon Rondo (ankle), questionable.
Nets: Marshon Brooks (ankle), questionable; Gerald Wallace (ankle), questionable.
Key Storyline: Are Either of These Two Teams Eastern Conference Powerhouses?
Both teams were supposed to emerge as championship contenders almost immediately, yet they continue to struggle to become a dominant force.
The Celtics are second to last in rebounds per game, 14th in scoring and 20th in points allowed per contest. They are fresh off an impressive win against the Chicago Bulls, but losses to the Heat and Milwaukee Bucks, along with two near losses to the Washington Wizards are more than troubling.
As for the Nets, they haven't fared much better. Brooklyn is in the top 10 in points allowed per game, but it's near the bottom of the pack in points scored, assists and rebounds per game to counteract that. And though the Nets find themselves just behind the New York Knicks in their division, all four wins have come against lottery-bound teams.
If either—or both—of these teams is to develop into a true powerhouse, they're going to have to start defeating formidable foes, not just win the games they're supposed to.
For one of them, that will start here.
Key Matchup: Rajon Rondo/Leandro Barbosa, PG, Celtics vs. Deron Williams, PG, Nets
Let the battle of two All-Star point guards begin.
The Celtics' floor general is also navigating the floor extremely well and is the primary reason Boston leads the league with 25 assists per game. He's been one of the team's few bright spots on the defensive end as well.
The only problem is, Rondo is day-to-day after injuring his ankle in Boston's win over the Jazz.
Leandro Barbosa may need to step up once again.
Though the backup combo guard is not the best of facilitators, he provided a major spark off the bench for the Celtics wednesday. He dropped 16 points to help propel the suddenly Rondo-less boys in green to victory.
Which means either way, Mr. Williams is going to have his hands full.
While a decline in production is acceptable if Brooklyn's offense was extremely potent, this isn't the case. Again, the Nets are 18th in the league with 96.5 points scored per game. For them to win here, Williams is going to have to attack the basket and find his teammates more.
He's also going to have attempt to contain one of the most elusive and defensively oriented point guards in the game while he's at it.
That gives this matchup the makings of an epic positional battle.
Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics
Currently, Brooklyn is allowing 45.3 points in the post per game—the fifth most in the league. The Celtics, by comparison, are averaging just 35.1 points in the paint—fifth worst in the Association.
One team is going to have to break here. Either the Nets' inside defense remains porous enough to be exploited, or Boston's lack of a true post scorer continues to prevail.
For the Celtics' sake, Garnett must ensure the latter isn't actualized.
Kris Humphries, PF, Nets
Though the Nets aren't exactly hoarding rebounds themselves, Humphries—the team's leading rebounder—needs to beat Boston into submission on the glass.
His ability to create second-chance points for Brooklyn while also preventing the Celtics from creating similar opportunities of their own is crucial the Nets' cause in this one.
Especially considering an aging Boston core will be engaging in the latter half of a back-to-back.
Jason Terry, G, Celtics
Right now, the Celtics' second unit is putting up just 29.7 points per game, nearly three points less than the Nets'.
Over the past few games, however, Terry has been on a personal tear, putting up numbers similar to what he put up with the Dallas Mavericks.
If he can give the Celtics the edge on the bench, that will go a long way in ensuring Boston emerges victorious here.
C.J. Watson, PG, Nets
That said, should he not play or his minutes be limited because of his ankle injury, the Nets need to make the most of the situation.
With Rondo like limited at the very least, this provides Watson with an opportunity to come off the bench and torch Boston's second unit.
Watson must attack the rim with a purpose. He must drive with the intent to score but be prepared to kick out if the opportunity isn't there.
Should he be able to do just that, the Nets' chance at claiming a victory increase dramatically.
Rondo or no Rondo.
Prediction: Celtics 104, Nets 99
By most accounts, the Nets are a stellar defensive team. In the interest of honesty, however, they've also had the luxury of playing a depleted Orlando Magic team twice, which has skewed the numbers in their favor.
Which team walks away with a win Thursday night?
On the flip side, though, Brooklyn should not have problems putting points on the board against a reeling Boston defense. That said, the team's lackadaisical ball movement will be one downfall too many and will make the going much easier for the Celtics down the stretch.
Furthermore, unlike the Nets, the Celtics have beaten playoff-bound teams this season—on the road, no less.
That said, Rondo's injury if of serious concern. If Boston is forced to hold him out, the likelihood of them claiming a victory decreases significantly.
Rondo or no Rondo, though, the Celtics are a hungry team still looking to prove they're viable contenders. Even in his absence, Boston's need to establish a sense of self-worth will carry them past an underwhelming Brooklyn team.
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