Game Preview: Celtics at Nets

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – The new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., has hosted the Boston Celtics (5-3), but not for a game like this. This one matters.

The Celtics will ride their three-game winning streak into Brooklyn for their first regular season meeting with the new-look Nets (4-2) at 8 p.m. tonight. The game is being considered as a great one, as it will be aired in primetime on TNT.

Nearly every NBA fan knows that these two teams look far different than they did when they met last season. Both teams have 10 new players compared to their active rosters at the end of the 2011-12 season.

Boston didn’t bring in any superstar talent this summer because they already have three dominant players who are stars in this league. However, the Nets, while making their move to Brooklyn, needed to make a splash and they definitely did.

Brooklyn made that summer splash by acquiring perennial All-Star Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks. He, along with journeyman guard Keith Bogans, round out Brooklyn’s new starting five alongside Deron Williams, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez.

That’s a pretty formidable starting lineup, and the Nets have solid talent on the bench as well. Talented castoffs like Andray Blatche and Josh Childress were brought to Brooklyn as well as solid veterans like C.J. Watson and Reggie Evans.

Make no mistake about it: this Nets team is a contender, both in the Atlantic Division and in the Eastern Conference.

Tonight’s meeting will be Boston’s first opportunity to tell Brooklyn, both the team and the borough, that the Celtics are still the kings of the Atlantic Division. Boston began its season slowly but has now won five out of its last six games, including three in a row. A win tonight would put the C’s ahead of Brooklyn in the standings and snap the Nets’ three-game winning streak.

What a great way for these two teams to play their first meaningful game in Brooklyn’s beautiful new arena: two red-hot teams, a brand new arena, national television, and some jockeying for position in the NBA’s most talented division.

It should be a fun night in Brooklyn.

Paul Pierce, Brook Lopez

The Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets will both be reaching for their fourth consecutive win tonight.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Box Out

The Celtics’ inability to do this simple act nearly cost them the game Wednesday night. Boston limited Utah to just 40.2 percent shooting on the night – nearly 10 percent less than the Celtics’ shooting percentage. However, 18 offensive rebounds allowed the Jazz to stay in the game.

“When you get outrebounded by what we did (on the offensive glass), 18-4, it’s hard to win a basketball game,” Doc Rivers said after the contest.

Still, though, Boston pulled the win out. Can you imagine how easy that win would have been if the C’s had actually boxed some Jazz players out? Maybe tonight the Celtics will complete that simple task.

Rondo’s Status

Rajon Rondo sprained his right ankle during the third quarter of Wednesday’s game and is listed as day-to-day by the team. He did not return to Wednesday’s game and watched the final quarter from the sideline.

Rondo and the Celtics hopped on a flight after the win and flew down to Brooklyn for tonight’s game. It’s a very short flight, about a half hour or so, but the point guard’s ankle was still elevated 20,000 feet above the Earth. That certainly did not aid in the swelling he’s likely experiencing.

As Rivers noted late Wednesday night, you usually know the extent of ankle injuries the next day. Rondo probably knew his status for tonight’s game when he rolled out of bed this morning, but to everyone else, his availability is a mystery.

Nets Are Still Learning

Both of these teams are still learning each other, but even with an All-Star point guard like Williams, Brooklyn is struggling to play team offense. The Nets are 19th in the league in assists with just 20.7 per game. Williams, who has averaged 9.1 APG over his career, is dishing out just 7.7 assists a night this season.

These numbers indicate that Brooklyn’s offense is resorting to quite a bit of one-on-one play. The Nets are still shooting the ball effectively but are not operating as a unit just yet. That may play right into the hands of the Celtics’ developing defense tonight.