Watch It! - Nets at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets meet at 6:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
Potential Lineup Change
Brad Stevens indicated on Saturday that he may alter his starting lineup when the Celtics take on the Nets at 6:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden. He is considering such a move strictly because of the Nets’ small lineup.
“The deal is they’re playing (Paul) Pierce at the 4.” Stevens explained. “Now you’ve got (Alan) Anderson, Pierce, (Joe) Johnson as 2, 3 and 4. They’re all interchangeable. They all spread the floor.”
Boston has a couple of options if it decides to match up with Brooklyn and go small as well. Stevens could insert Brandon Bass into the starting lineup. He has proven agile enough to guard players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and he could fare well against Pierce. The C’s could also insert Chris Johnson into the starting lineup and shift Jeff Green to small forward and Gerald Wallace to power forward.
Nets are Hot
The Nets opened this season in embarrassing fashion, losing 12 of their first 17 games. They have, however, been a different team since the calendar turned over.
Brooklyn has won nine of its 10 games in 2014 and has jumped right back into the playoff picture. The Nets currently sit in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and trail the Raptors by just two games in the Atlantic Division standings.
This team is no longer one to laugh at. Instead, it’s a team to fear.
Take Advantage of the Emotions
As discussed in detail on Saturday, this game is going to be extremely emotional. Pierce and Kevin Garnett are returning to TD Garden as opponents of the Celtics.
“There’s gonna be a lot of emotions,” Pierce said this weekend. “You play your whole life there. You won a championship there. The first time coming there as a visitor. I never thought it would happen, but it is and it’ll be here Sunday.”
We’ve seen some Celtics icons get emotional in the past. Pierce cried when the 2008 championship banner was raised. Doc Rivers said he was useless for the first two quarters of his return to Boston on Dec. 11.
There’s no doubt that Pierce and KG are going to be very emotional during this game, particularly when their video tributes play. That’s a distinct advantage for the Celtics. Boston’s players need to attack the Nets and take advantage of Pierce and Garnett’s emotional state.
Brooklyn’s Powerful Reserves
Two unsuspecting men have been key cogs in Brooklyn’s recent resurgence. Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic, both of whom are reserves, have been playing fantastic basketball this month.
Blatche has served as Brooklyn’s top man off the bench this season. He is averaging 12.3 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game this month. Blatche has scored at least 18 points in three of his last four games and has also logged two double-doubles in that same span.
Teletovic is the lesser-known player of the two but he is coming off of a dominant performance against the Mavericks on Friday night. He scored a career-high 34 points against Dallas thanks to a 7-of-11 shooting performance from long range. Teletovic is averaging 11.2 PPG this month. Anyone who has watched this guy play knows that he has the green light to let it fly whenever he wants to.
Hitting Open Shots
With Rajon Rondo and Phil Pressey, the Celtics have one of the best point guard combos in the league when it comes to passing the rock. Both of these guys have elite vision and take pride in setting up their teammates for open looks.
Rondo and Pressey combined for 14 assists during Friday night’s loss to the Thunder. The issue is that their assist total could have easily been around 20. Boston’s players failed to hit their shots with regularity. The C’s shot just 42.7 percent from the field against Oklahoma City, including a woeful 5-of-27 performance from long range.
Boston must hit shots with regularity if it wants to win this game. We all know Rondo and Pressey are going to set their teammates up. It’s up to their teammates to capitalize on those opportunities.