Game Preview: Celtics at Nets

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – There will be nothing but holiday cheer, smiles and happiness on the Barclays Center court when the Boston Celtics (13-13) and Brooklyn Nets (14-13) tip off their third meeting of the season at noon on Christmas Day.

Or maybe not.

Tuesday’s contest marks the first meeting between these two teams since November 28, when three players were ejected and four technical fouls were assessed after an altercation with 29.5 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

Boston trailed by 16 points at that moment when Kevin Garnett tumbled to the floor after a hard foul by Kris Humphries. Rajon Rondo took exception to that foul and expressed his displeasure to Humphries. That exchange led to a shoving match between Rondo and Humphries that spilled into the crowd. Rondo, Humphries and Gerald Wallace, who picked up his second technical foul of the game, were all ejected from the contest.

The Nets quickly put the skirmish behind them and went on to win the game by a score of 95-83. Three of Brooklyn’s players, including two reserves, scored at least 17 points in the contest. Meanwhile, Boston’s entire bench accounted for just 18 points on the night.

It is often said that a situation like the one that happened on November 28, with emotions running high, can be a rallying point for a team. Boston watched Rondo stick up for his teammate against a power forward who outweighs him by 50 pounds. Brooklyn, on the other hand, saw its new nucleus of players rally around each other for an emotional road victory. Both of those statements are facts, but neither have yielded positive results for these two teams.

The Celtics and Nets have both struggled tremendously since that tussle in the Garden. Boston has won just five of its 11 games since November 28, while Brooklyn has gone just 4-8. Neither of these teams have been smiling much of late, and they’re unlikely to be doing so before Tuesday’s tip off. One of them, however, will be able head home from the Barclays Center with a little extra holiday cheer.

Pierce, Wallace

Paul Pierce versus Gerald Wallace could be the key matchup to this Christmas Day showdown.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Brooklyn’s Bench

The Nets have received a lot of attention due to the starting lineup they have assembled, but opponents cannot forget about Brooklyn’s reserves. Boston found that out last month.

Andray Blatche and Jerry Stackhouse shined against the Celtics by scoring 17 points apiece off of the bench in their November 28 matchup. Blatche also contributed a game-high 13 rebounds, while Stackhouse hit five of his six 3-pointers. Reggie Evans was also able to chip in 10 rebounds for Brooklyn’s bench crew.

All three of those players have been struggling lately, which is a big reason why the Nets have been losing more than they’ve been winning. The Celtics do, however, have first-hand knowledge that Brooklyn’s bench can win a game all by itself.

Collins’ Defense

Jason Collins is likely to start his third straight game at center for the Celtics and he’s going to have a challenging matchup. Brook Lopez is one of the top offensive centers in the league and he leads the Nets in scoring with 17.5 points per game. Stopping him will be a priority, and that role will be Collins’ to fulfill.

Collins flies under the radar because he doesn’t put up big stats, but he is a very reliable defender. His presence has allowed the Celtics to return to their standard defensive rotations. Boston will lean heavily on Collins to defend Lopez one-on-one during this game, which will make things a whole lot easier for the other four defenders who have difficult matchups as well.

Pierce vs. Wallace

This could be entertaining, folks. It’s scorer versus defender. Ego versus ego. Pierce thinks he can score on anyone, and Wallace believes he can stop anyone from scoring. Do you see where we’re going here?

Wallace is surely going to have his hands full on Christmas Day, because Pierce has been torching the baskets over his past two games. The All-Star has averaged 37.5 PPG over those two games while hitting 66.7 percent of his shots and 64.3 percent of his 3-pointers. He is officially on fire and his current scoring average of 21.0 PPG on the season is his highest average since 2006-07.

There’s no doubt that Pierce is going to get plenty of shots up during this game. The big question is, will Wallace be able to force many of those shots to be errant?