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Big game between Nets and Celtics in Brooklyn

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"They messed your bracket up too dawg? I feel you." - America
"They messed your bracket up too dawg? I feel you." - America
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Amazingly, this team is still in playoff contention. Fresh off a triple overtime game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets traveled to Indiana to face the slumping Pacers. Brooklyn extended Indy's losing streak to five games with an impressive 123-111 victory on Saturday. The Nets are only one half game behind the eighth seed, but still have three teams to leapfrog. That being said...

Coming into the Barclays Center this evening will be the Boston Celtics. Coming into the season, the C's weren't expected to compete for a playoff spot. Their chances became even lower following the trade of Rajon Rondo. However, they've managed to hold on and find themselves within striking distance of a playoff position. They've lost their last three games, including a 105-97 overtime decision to the Pistons in Boston last night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM WCBS 880 AM (edited at 2:16 PM) on radio. Tip is after 7:30.

Injuries

Nothing here for Brooklyn.

Jared Sullinger is out for the season. It's unlikely Isaiah Thomas plays tonight. Brad Stevens is aiming for a mid-week return for Thomas.

The game

What's happening here? Let's dig in:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Boston

Record

29-39 30-39

Pace

94.72 98.44

Offensive Efficiency

101.1 101

Defensive Efficiency

104.9 102.6

Turnover Rate

14.8 14

Assist Rate

16.2 18

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.8 25

Rebounding Rate

48.6 49.5

Free Throw Rate

27.1 22.6

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49 48.6

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50.2 49.4

Boston won the first game, Brooklyn the second, and Boston the third.

Every time the Nets try to string a win streak together, they fall a bit short. If they can pull off a victory tonight and in Charlotte on Wednesday, it will position the Nets well for the final push in May.

Brook Lopez has picked the perfect time to play his best basketball. The big fella had another outstanding game, scoring a game high 26 points on Saturday and making 11 of his 14 field goal attempts. When Brooklyn is at their best, they're getting the ball to Lopez as often as humanly possible. He can step out and make 18 foot jumpers, but he's best utilized in the low post. Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko will be tasked with keeping Lopez in check. TZ has improved each season he's been in the league and can draw opposing centers out to the perimeter with his jump shot. Double teaming Lopez can be a tricky bet for Boston. With Bojan Bogdanovic playing well these days (and coming off of a perfect 8-8 on Saturday), the Nets have more spacing on offense as compared to earlier in the season.

Joe Johnson and Evan Turner figures to be a key matchup. Johnson had struggled for much of the second half, but has turned it around over the last five games. Having Johnson playing well lessens the offensive load for Lopez and can create better scoring opportunities for players like Thaddeus Young.

Player to watch: Marcus Smart

Smart has played well in his rookie season with Boston, but I'll get to that in a minute. He got himself suspended one game for this:

You see, we can't be out here condoning this sort of behavior.

That being said, he's been good for Boston this year. He's only shooting 36.2 percent overall, but is shooting a respectable 34.1 percent from three point range. The Nets will need to stay close as Smart has taken the majority of his shots from downtown. He's most effective on defense. Opponents are shooting 43 percent against Smart, which is right around league average but doesn't really tell the entire story. Smart is quick and has been building on the great perimeter defense he played at Oklahoma State. The combo of Smart and Avery Bradley is one of the best defensive backcourts in the league and figure to play a major role for Boston even when Thomas gets back.

Deron Williams is still the starter, but that hasn't meant much recently. Jarrett Jack has gotten the majority of minutes over the past week and all signs point to that occuring again tonight. The offense tends to stagnate with Jack running things, and even with Williams playing below standards, he is still a better option at this point over Jack.

From the Vault

The Celtics and Pacers are currently jostling for playoff positioning. Take a trip back to 1991 and watch them do battle with a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals on the line.

More reading: CelticsBlog