NEW YORK – The Boston Celtics are two weeks removed from cutting down the Brooklyn Nets for the first time this season. The victory put a notch in Boston’s win column, but Brad Stevens isn’t hanging onto it very tightly as the C’s head into tonight’s game in Brooklyn.
“It’s one of those games where the result didn’t necessarily speak the truth,” Stevens said of the March 7 matchup with Brooklyn. “I didn’t think we were all that good, either. It was one of those games where [the Nets] missed a ton of shots.”
The Celtics limited the Nets to just 84 points when these teams met two weeks ago.
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Fifty-one, to be exact. The Nets shot just 36.2 percent from the field and 13.3 percent from long range during the contest. That field goal percentage stands as Brooklyn’s worst since Christmas, and that 3-point percentage is far below the team’s 41.3 percent clip from long range during the month of March.
Stevens is viewing Brooklyn’s March 7 performance as an anomaly. He isn’t expecting a similar game tonight from the Nets, who have won nine of their last 11 games.
“They obviously didn’t play their best game when they came to our place,” said Stevens. “We’re going to have to play a lot better tonight for us to be in the game at the end.”
The Celtics have a plan to try to duplicate or even upgrade their defensive performance from that last matchup. Their goal, as Jared Sullinger revealed, is to shut down everyone not named Joe Johnson, Deron Williams or Paul Pierce.
“Just take away the ‘others,’” Sullinger said. “You know Joe is going to get his. You know D-Will is going to get his, and Paul is going to get his. We’ve just got to make sure that the others don’t beat us. As long as we do that we’ll be fine.”
Johnson, Williams and Pierce combined to score 51 points on 42.6 percent shooting on March 7. The rest of the Nets combined to make just nine total field goals on 27.3 percent shooting.
“I just thought we made them uncomfortable, honestly,” Sullinger recalled. “Defensively, we played really, really well.”
Boston knows that it will need to do the same tonight, especially seeing as Brooklyn has been playing strong defense of its own for quite some time. The Nets have limited opponents to just 95.6 points per game and 45.1 percent shooting since Jan. 1.
Stevens described Brooklyn’s improved defense by saying, “Their defense is totally different than when we played them in December as far as how not only aggressive it is but also how productive it is in limiting you and making it difficult to score.”
The Celtics were unable to muster up much offense against that defense a couple of weeks ago. They scored 91 points in the win while shooting 44.3 percent from the field.
Those numbers were good enough to grab a victory over the Nets on March 7. The likelihood that they would yield a similar result tonight is very slim.
Brad Stevens understands that notion as well as anyone. That’s why he’s telling us all that the Celtics will need to play at a much higher level tonight in order to even the season series with Brooklyn.