Watch It! - Celtics at Nets
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Barclays Center.
Bring it to Brooklyn
If you haven’t heard the news, the Celtics are rolling right now. They’ve won three consecutive games and six out of eight overall. They’re rolling because of great play at both ends of the floor, as they’ve shot 51.7 percent from the field and limited opponents to 42.1 percent shooting during that timespan.
Reaching all of those numbers was a great accomplishment for Boston. Now it needs to keep the ball rolling by bringing that level of play to Brooklyn.
“We’re working right now as a group, as a unit,” Jared Sullinger said on Monday. “We just want to continue our success and keep this winning streak going.”
Here Comes the Cavalry
Brooklyn has been decimated by injuries this season. According to ESPNNewYork.com, its projected starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez has played a total of just 78 minutes together this season.
That number is likely to rise on Tuesday, because Williams plans on returning from a sprained left ankle and Pierce said there’s a “good chance” that he will play, despite having fractured his right hand just 10 days ago.
Forget about the record or the questions about Jason Kidd’s coaching abilities. When you put that starting five on the floor, Brooklyn will be tough to defend. If Williams and Pierce do, in fact, play, the Celtics will have their hands full.
Go At Pierce
Pierce was the rock of the Celtics organization for 15 years. That shouldn’t preclude the current group of Celtics from taking advantage of him. There are several reasons why Boston should instruct Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace to go right at Pierce all night long.
First and foremost on that list is the fact that Pierce hasn’t played in an NBA basketball game since Nov. 29 and he just returned to practice on Monday. He’s destined to be a bit out of shape and rusty.
Secondly, hasn’t been a very good defender this season. Synergy Sports rates him as an average defender overall. More specifically, Synergy rates him as a poor defender of pick-and-roll ball handlers, and a below average defender off of screens. Green and Wallace have the ability to excel as pick-and-roll ball handlers.
Lastly, Green is simply on fire of late. Over his past six games, which include four Celtics wins, Green has shot 52.4 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from 3-point range. He’d love to continue to pile up similar numbers against his former teammate.
Slow Down Brook
The Celtics got out of Saturday afternoon’s game against New York without having the need to double-team Carmelo Anthony. They’re unlikely to have similar luck tonight when it comes to Brook Lopez.
Lopez may be the league’s most potent offensive threat at the center position. He is averaging 20.6 PPG this season on 56.1 percent shooting, and that includes a lot of midrange jumpers. He just dropped in 32 points on 11-of-13 shooting Saturday night in Milwaukee.
Boston has been successful at slowing down premier low-post scorers this season but Lopez is a whole other story. Brooklyn’s big man dropped 20 points on the C’s in just 26 minutes of action during a preseason tilt on Oct. 15.
Sullinger, Kris Humphries and Vitor Faverani are likely to be the Celtics who defend Lopez. Their level of success could determine this game.
Do Not Underestimate Them
We’ve already covered the level of talent this Nets team brings to the table. Brooklyn is loaded with talent and very likely could start five former All-Stars Tuesday night.
That is not a group that anyone can afford to underestimate. To Green’s credit, he pretty much stated that after Monday’s practice.
“We know this team is talented, they’re deep, and they have All-Stars on their team who have been through a lot in this league and they can turn it around at any point,” Green said. “We can’t come with a mindset of just looking at their record thinking we’re playing their record, because we’re not.”
A coach couldn’t ask for a better statement from his team’s best scorer. Now we just need to see if the rest of the Celtics are on the same wavelength as Green.