3/11 Game Preview: Celtics at Nets
While the Brooklyn Nets sent Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving to the All-Star Game in Atlanta, their front office was busy securing the services of Blake Griffin for the second half of the season.
Griffin officially joined the team on Monday and is expected to make his Nets debut Thursday night when Brooklyn hosts the Boston Celtics.
Griffin was waived by the Detroit Pistons on Friday, and the Nets reportedly used one of their veteran minimum contract spots to sign the veteran forward.
"We're fortunate to be able to add a player of Blake's caliber to our roster at this point in the season," Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. "Blake is a versatile frontcourt player with a long track record of success in our league, and we're excited about the impact he'll make for us both on and off the court in Brooklyn."
Griffin is not the same player known for high-flying dunks during his time with the Los Angeles Clippers but is expected to play a reserve center role when he joins forces with Durant, Harden and Irving and reunites with former "Lob City" teammate DeAndre Jordan. In 20 games this season with the Pistons, Griffin averaged 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds and last appeared in a game on Feb. 12.
Griffin is going from the Eastern Conference's worst team to a club that entered the All-Star break on a 10-1 roll since a 122-111 loss at Detroit on Feb. 9. Durant, who missed the last nine games before the break with a hamstring injury, could return Thursday.
Without Durant, Harden has been spectacular, averaging 25.5 points, 11.4 assists and 8.7 rebounds in 23 games as Net. Harden also has eight triple-doubles with the Nets and entered the All-Star break by totaling 29, 14 assists and 10 rebounds in a 132-114 win in his return to Houston on March 3.
Brooklyn's final win before the break marked the 22nd time the Nets scored at least 120 points. It also was their 19th time shooting at least 50 percent and 23rd time the Nets made at least 15 3-pointers.
"I'm excited. We got a win. To finish out strong like this going into the All-Star break means a lot," Harden said.
Boston started with eight wins in its first 11 games and won seven of its next 21 before ending the first half with four straight wins. The Celtics ended the first half by sweeping a four-game homestand over Indiana, Washington, the Clippers and Toronto Raptors and won those games by seven points or less.
Boston entered the All-Star break with a 132-125 win over Toronto last Thursday. Jayson Tatum posted a double-double with 27 points and 12 rebounds while Jaylen Brown added 21 points and seven rebounds.
"I thought it was big, especially after starting off slow," Brown said. "We played hard man. It was good going into the break. We needed that win."
Boston's offense has clicked better of late by averaging 119.5 points on 51.7 percent shooting over the winning streak. In the previous 21 games, the Celtics averaged 109 points and shot 45 percent.
"I think we're learning and growing as the season goes on," Brown said. "I think we've definitely made improvement in different categories and that's that it's all about."
Celtics guard Marcus Smart plans to play Thursday, marking his return from a calf injury sustained on Jan. 30.
Smart missed 18 games and was not able to practice during his rehab. He was averaging career-bests in scoring (13.1 points per game) and assists (6.1) before the injury.