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Nets open 2016 in Boston

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Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to 2016! The Brooklyn Nets had a chance to end 2015 on a good note, but came up short against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. This the last game of a quick three game trip and the Nets head back to Brooklyn on Monday night.

Ringing in the New Year with Brooklyn will be the Boston Celtics. They've had a good season, but lost their last game, a 112-104 defeat to the Lakers in Kobe Bryant's final game in Boston. The C's will be facing the Nets again on Monday as they complete the second half of a home-and-home set.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV (unless you live in the area that's deep red on this map) and WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. The game's in the afternoon and tip off will be after 3:30 PM.

Injuries

If you're looking for some positive news, Chris McCullogh is inching closer to making his NBA debut.

Marcus Smart missed most of December thanks to a knee injury, but he returned to action on the 27th against the Knicks and will be good to go today.

The game

Let's check the numbers

2015-2016

Brooklyn

Boston

Record

9-23

18-14

Pace

97.76 100.95

Offensive Efficiency

98.7

101.2

Defensive Efficiency

105 97.8

Turnover Rate

15.3 14.9

Assist Rate

16.5 17.6

Offensive Rebounding Rate

25 24.4

Rebound Rate

50.7 49.2

Free Throw Rate

22.7 24.8

Effective Field Goal Percentage

47.9 48.7

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

52.3 47.4

The two teams played a home and home set in November. The Celtics won the first game while the Nets took game two.

We're in Boston so expect commentary about the Nets' draft pick quandary throughout the game. Also, if it's another blowout, the "Thank You Brooklyn!" chants will be out in full force. For the Nets' sake, they better keep this one close.

Boston doesn't have a high usage, superstar player, but they're doing OK all things considered. Although they're eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, they're only two games behind the Atlantic Division leading (and second overall in the East) Toronto Raptors. Their next game against the Raps will be in two weeks in Toronto. If they ever do get that star player, he'll be joining a great environment that will bring out the most of his talents. As wsjy of Celtics Blog explains:

With their unselfish style, they might be able to attract free agents down the road and easily work different players into their system.  There are certainly ideal characteristics to be a perfect player for Stevens--well rounded skill set, threat to score from anywhere on the court, and an ability to play defense--but whatever you can do, he'll figure out a way to put you in your sweet spots.  And it can't be overstated how empowering it is for a player to be put in a position to not only determine their own success on the floor, but more importantly, the success of their teammates.  That philosophy will not only attract players to Boston, but it will attract the right ones.

Wing play will be the key to this contest. The Celtics posse of Avery Bradley, Smart, and Jae Crowder provide a mix of excellent defense, good passing, and just enough scoring to keep opposing defenses honest. For the Nets, Bojan Bogdanovic and Wayne Ellington have combined to help offset the loss of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Those two aren't close to defending like RHJ did, but they do provide some more scoring and with Joe Johnson still in a slump, will need to do more for the Nets.

Player to watch: Isaiah Thomas

While the C's don't have a superstar, Thomas has done a great job of being the team's lead man. He leads the team in scoring and assists, scoring close to 21 and handing out seven dimes in 32 minutes a night. Thomas does a great job of breaking defenses down and is always driving to the basket (tied for fourth most per game in the league). For a player that's only 5'9, he lives close to the basket. He's 38th in the league in shots inside the restricted area with close to five a night and has made 54 percent of those shots attempts. With all of those shots close to the basket, he's kept himself in the Top 20 in free throw attempts, averaging six a night. Thomas is constantly applying pressure to opposing defenses and has the ability to get hot at a moment's notice.

The duo of Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin will be the ones tasked with defending Thomas. As the Nets drift further and further away from playoff contention, they should look into giving Larkin a chance at the starting point guard spot. He's done well in the time he's been on the court this year but hasn't crossed the 30 minute mark since December first vs the Suns. He figures to be on the team next year, so having him paired with Johnson, Bogdanovic, Thad Young, and Brook Lopez would be a good test for him as well as a good opportunity for Nets management to see how he does managing an offense.

From the Vault

You can never go wrong with Larry Bird.

More reading: CelticsBlog