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Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Both the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets are on fire.

Well, almost on fire.

The Nets have won three straight games since being blown out against the Miami Heat, while the Celtics are winners of their last two heading into Wednesday night's bout with the Utah Jazz.

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

TV: TNT

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?

Highlights from when the Nets and Celtics met during the preseason.
The going hasn't been easy early on for both Boston and Brooklyn.

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.

Well, maybe.

A look at what Rondo has done for the Celtics this season.
Despite Boston's early struggles, Rondo is on pace to have a career year. He's currently averaging 15.4 points, 13 assists and 5.1 rebounds on 52.8 percent shooting—all career highs.

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.

Meaning?

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.

Williams has seen better days.
Though the Nets' point man continues to lead the team in dishing and swishing, he's averaging just 17.7 points and 7.7 assists per game—the lowest totals he's seen since his sophomore season. He's also shooting a career-worst 25.8 percent from deep as well.

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.

 

X-Factors

Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics

Garnett needs to have a big night for Boston.
Garnett, the power forward turned center, needs to take advantage of the Nets in the paint if Boston is to prevail.

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

Brooklyn needs Humphries to be a force in the paint.
Once again, the Celtics find themselves near the bottom in rebounds per game. Like near the very bottom.

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

Terry needs to score for the Celtics to win.
Boston's bench has been anything but productive this season.

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

Watson needs to provide an offensive spark for Nets.
Though the Celtics lead the league in assists per game, such an accomplishment is by no means courtesy of Boston's backup floor generals. Instead, it's all Rondo, who averages over 40 minutes per contest.

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.

Enter Watson.

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.

 

Depth Charts

Celtics

Photo via ESPN.com.

 

Nets

Photo via ESPN.com.

 

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?

Submit Vote vote to see results
While the Celtics' offensive attack has been anything but dominant, Rondo should carve up a Brooklyn defense that cannot keep players out of the paint even if he's limited. Whether he's getting easy looks at the rim or simply kicking the rock out to an open wing, expect the point guard to pick apart the Nets with the utmost of ease.

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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