Brooklyn heads to Boston for an emotional game

Christian Petersen

Homecomings are always fun, especially when your team is playing well. This one, of course, is more than that. it;s the return of two Hall of Famers to a city where they won one NBA championship and almost won another.  For Paul Pierce, it's even more poignant, more emotional. He is returning to the only place he ever called home before this season. For Kevin Garnett, it may not be as dramatic. He only played there for six years, compared to Pierce's 16, but it's where he coined the phrase, "anything's possible." And for Boston's fans, it will be a mix of emotion and a desire to show the world a new era has begun.

ESPN reports the emotion has been well planned out....

The Celtics are expected to run two video tributes with Garnett first (likely at the game's first timeout) then Pierce (likely after the first quarter). Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens said he'll hurry his team in and out of the huddle at those breaks in order to appropriately acknowledge what those players meant to the organization

The Celtics are expected to run two video tributes with Garnett first (likely at the game's first timeout) then Pierce (likely after the first quarter). Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens said he'll hurry his team in and out of the huddle at those breaks in order to appropriately acknowledge what those players meant to the organization - See more at: http://hoopshype.com/rumors/tag/brooklyn_nets#sthash.yBo0dpz3.dpuf

The Nets and Celtics met in December at Barclays, Brooklyn was under .500 and struggling. They won that night, but the Nets continued to struggle. However, January has been much more successful as the Nets have gone 9-1, best in the league in January.  That record includes a one point win over Dallas on Friday night. Beyond being a homecoming, the game is the first night of a back-to-back that will bring them back to Brooklyn to play Toronto in a key divisional game on Monday night.

Awaiting Pierce and Garnett are the slumping Boston Celtics. After playing better than expected for the first month, but are where most expected them to be. Boston has gone 2-12 in January & are solidly in the battle for draft position.

The season so far

What's been happening with these teams? Let's take a look:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Boston

Record

19-22 15-30

Pace

93.57 95.82

Offensive Efficiency

103.3 98.6

Defensive Efficiency

105.4 103.5

Offensive Rebounding percentage

23.2 26.1

Turnover rate

15.4 16.1

Assist rate

16.7 15.5

Rebound rate

48.5 49.6

Free throw rate

31.9 25.3

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.1 47.6

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 49.2

All eyes will rightfully be on Pierce and Garnett. To get an idea of how emotional this game will be, why not see how Boston fans view them? Herre's Celtics Blog's Kevin O'Connor on Kevin Garnett:

To Kevin Garnett, The leadership and pride you have brought to the Boston Celtics has left an imprint on me forever. You have taught me that I can be a better person just by working hard and being myself. From your knuckle pushups to Ubuntu (philosophy)" trash talking to your childlike smile during Gino Time and from your screams during, and after games: you truly have taught me that "anything is possible!"

And Celtics Blog head writer Jeff Clark on Paul Pierce:

So the legend of Paul Pierce ends with him being traded in his final year or two. That's not the way I would have developed the story, but it isn't my book to write. But it does not subtract one single memory from my heart. It does not diminish the respect and adore that I have for Pierce. He is and will always be a Celtic, regardless of what jersey he wears in the next couple of years.

After their initial struggles, Pierce & KG have settled into their roles. Garnett has moved back into the center position and seen his production improve dramatically. His jump shot has returned, he's continued to be one of the league's best defensive rebounders, he's begun to make a major impact on the team's defense (they're seven points better per 100 possessions on defense with KG on the court for the season and almost 13 points better in January) & the Nets have yet to lose a game he's played in this month. As for Pierce, although he's shooting only 40 percent overall, he has been much better of late and has shown the ability to carry the Brooklyn offense for certain stretches of time.

Deron Williams has seen his minutes and production increase since he returned. In 34:57 against Dallas, he scored 18 points with 11 assists and only one turnover. Williams will be coming off the bench for as long as he sees fit.

Pierce and Garnett Return to Boston

Two other ex-Celtics, Joe Johnson and Jason Terry will look to make an impact as well. Johnson had one of his worst games of the year as he only went 1-5 from the field with five turnovers and five fouls. Terry had a good game against his former team, hitting two three pointers and collecting three steals. Neither Johnson or Terry were in Boston for long so I wouldn't expect them to receive a video package before the game.

Mirza Teletovic is coming off the best game of his NBA career. He hit seven threes, scored 34 points and grabbed six rebounds. He's shooting 43.6 percent from three point range (57.8 percent in the last two games) and it would be a nice cap to his first half if he were invited to compete in the three point shootout on All Star Saturday.

The Celtics roster is different compared to the first meeting. Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford and Marshon Brooks were traded at the beginning of 2014. Avery Bradley is out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.

For the Celtics left, Jeff Green is the focal point of the offense. Outside of his great game against Washington, he's struggled for the past two weeks. He's shooting only 37.7 percent since January 11 & Boston has gone 2-6 during that time period. Although Green shoots 62 percent in the restricted area and gets to the free throw line four times a game, he's most comfortable from the perimeter. Green is only shooting 30 percent from the midrange but has hit on 36.6 percent of his team high 186 three point attempts. There's always going to be discussion as to whether or not Green is a player that can be the leading option on offense, but he has established himself as a capable player in the league who can have the occasional big game.

The other Celtic player to keep an eye on is Jared Sullinger. He had never been much of a three point shooter going into this season, but he's added that to his arsenal. Although he's only shooting 26.8 percent from deep, working to expand his range will prove to be very beneficial for him as he gains more experience. He's already league average around the basket (about 58 percent in the restricted area) and with his improving range, he could prove to be a solid player for Boston as they rebuild.

We'll also get to see some ex-Nets in this one. Kris Humphries has settled nicely into his bench role. He's averaging a double-double on a per 36 minutes basis and is shooting a career high 89.3 percent from the free throw line. And outside of his game winner against Washington, Gerald Wallace has had a pretty quiet season. He's on pace to play all 82 games (a first for him) and seeing as how he's still pissed off at the Nets, look for him to be very aggressive (even more so than usual) when he gets in the game.

Player to watch: Rajon Rondo

Rondo has been back for a little over a week after missing the first couple of months recovering from his knee injury in 2013. He's on a minutes restriction but that will fade as he gets more and more comfortable playing again. When Rondo is healthy, he's one of the game's best point guards. He's been Top 10 in assists each of the last four seasons and won the assist title in the last two. He was also a better jump shooter than I think he was given credit for. He did shoot 48 percent from the midrange area last season and had been right around league average the past few years.

He's started every game he's played and he should do so again. Shaun Livingston figures to get the initial assignment & has the length and quickness to keep up with Rondo. Rondo figures to be more of a challenge for the Nets in their next game on March 7, but he's still a capable passer. Even as he's been working his way back to full strength Rondo has averaged a little over five assists a night. If the game is close throughout, look for Rondo to play a good amount in the fourth quarter.

From the Vault

Head on back to 2008 & relive the finest moment in the careers of Garnett and Pierce.


More reading: CelticsBlog

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