Celts, Nets Exchange Roles on Health Front for Tonight's Rematch

NEW YORK – Tonight’s matchup between the Celtics and the Nets will look very different – on both sides of the ball – than it did one week ago.

This time around, Brooklyn is healthy, and Boston is not.

The opposite was the case one week ago, on Jan. 7 at TD Garden, when a fully-loaded Celtics squad cruised to a 116-95 win over the injury-riddled Nets. Boston led by as many as 24 points during that contest, and none of its starters were needed for more than 28 minutes of service.

That result was not surprising considering that the Nets were missing two key players that night in Joe Harris and DeMarre Carroll, who rank third and fifth on the team in scoring, respectively. Both of those players will be available for tonight’s game.

Harris enters the contest averaging 13.4 points per game and is shooting at a blistering 48.3 percent clip from downtown on the season. That percentage has been maintained while Harris is attempting an average of 5.0 shots from 3-point range per game, which is quite an impressive feat.

Carroll, meanwhile, carries averages of 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game into the matchup. What may make an even greater impact tonight, however, is his defense.

Carroll has built a reputation as a versatile defender who can handle multiple positions on the court. That ability plays right into one of Brooklyn’s strengths, according to Brad Stevens.

“I think they have a lot of versatility defensively,” Stevens said at Monday morning’s shootaround. “I think that they’re superbly coached, and they all know what they do, and they do it every single night.”

Meanwhile, on Boston’s side of the ball, the C’s are likely to be missing a key cog to their defensive versatility tonight. Marcus Smart did not attend shootaround after he woke up Monday morning feeling ill. Stevens said that he doubts Smart will be able to recover in time for tonight’s game.

Additionally, the Celtics will be missing their All-Star point guard during tonight’s contest. Kyrie Irving will miss his fifth game of the season after he suffered a right quad contusion Saturday night. Irving said that he suffered the injury, which caused a knot to build up in his leg, after he came down awkwardly on a continuation play in Orlando. Irving said the injury “could have been bad,” and added that he will be ready to go Wednesday night against Toronto.

However, his absence, combined with that of Smart, leaves two holes in Boston’s starting lineup tonight. Irving is Boston’s leading scorer and assist man, and the team has yet to play game this season without their star perimeter defender, Smart. Their absences will require multiple Celtics to step up and deliver strong performances against the Nets.

Terry Rozier is almost certain to step into the starting lineup in place of Irving. Rozier has played some of his best ball of the season when he has stepped into Irving’s starting shoes. In four games as a starter, the fourth-year point guard has averaged 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

The player who will step into the other open slot in the starting lineup isn’t quite as automatic. Stevens has multiple options, including Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Semi Ojeleye. Brown was chosen as the starter the last time Boston was missing two starters, as Stevens seemed to want to keep Hayward in his role as a playmaker off the bench.

No matter who steps into the starting lineup in Smart’s place, and whoever bumps up in the rotation as a result of Smart’s and Irving’s absences, Stevens expects them to rise to the occasion.

“One of the things I think about our team is that guys that are getting new opportunity or more opportunity will be ready,” the coach stated. “That’s one of the benefits of having a group like this. You always want everybody available, but our other guys will be ready.”

We’ll find out at 7:30 p.m. tonight if that comment is accurate, while these two teams exchange roles on the health front compared to their meeting a week ago.

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