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Nets return home to face the Celtics

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Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

New year, New Nets? Brooklyn rang in the new year in Boston on the final stop of their three game road trip. It got tight late, but they were able to come away with a 100-97 victory over the Celtics in a tightly contested game. The Nets ended their three game road trip at 2-1 and if they had executed better down the stretch in Orlando, might have gone 3-0.

After this game wraps up, the schedule gets tighter for Boston. They head home to play the Pistons on Wednesday before beginning a three game roadie that will take them to Chicago (as the second night of a back-to-back), Memphis, and back to New York to play the Knicks (as the first half of a b2b).

Where to follow the game

YES Network for TV. WCBS 880 AM for radio. Tip's after 7:30.

Injuries

Jarrett Jack left the game on Saturday with a knee injury and had to be helped off the floor by his teammates. He underwent an MRI on Sunday and was diagnosed with a torn ACL. He will miss the rest of the season.

Avery Bradley suffered a left hip contusion in the second quarter on Saturday and didn't return. He didn't travel with the team and will miss this game.

The game

Let's take a look at what these teams have been up to

2015-2016

Brooklyn

Boston

Record

10-23 18-15

Pace

97.84 100.94

Offensive Efficiency

98.6 101.1

Defensive Efficiency

104.9 97.8

Turnover Rate

15.3 14.9

Assist Rate

16.5 17.4

Offensive Rebounding Rate

25.2 24.6

Rebound Rate

50.6 49.3

Free Throw Rate

22.8 25.1

Effective Field Goal Percentage

47.7 48.5

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

52 47.2

The C's took game one while Brooklyn won games two and three.

Who doesn't like feistiness amongst division rivals? The two teams got into a bit of a scuffle on Saturday afternoon, but nothing major came of it. For a team that's been having a rough go of it for the past year and change, it was nice to see Brooklyn push back a bit. Maybe it'll be the spark that gets them out of the cellar?

Shane Larkin will be the starter, and his first run playing pressure minutes alongside the other starters didn't go well on Saturday. He committed all four of his turnovers in the fourth and looked out of sorts. Larkin has been pretty decent for much of the year and this is a great opportunity for him to impress Nets management and give himself a shot at being the team's starting point guard next season.

It's only one game, but maybe Joe Johnson's game will start to pick up. He shot above 40 percent from the field for the first time since December 12 vs the Clippers. More importantly, he scored six points in the fourth quarter. If Johnson is able to play somewhat decently over the next month, it'll be a dramatic improvement over the first two months of the year when he was the team's worst player. On the other side is Jae Crowder. It's been a year since Danny Ainge acquired him from Dallas in exchange for Rajon Rondo, and that trade looks better and better by the day for the C's. He's got fans across the league, including his teammate Marcus Smart:

"We need someone else out there who can score the ball and put pressure on the defense. And then he comes down on the defensive end and attacks guys. He messes things up for [opposing] offenses. He’s just a big key for this team. He knows it, we know it and we appreciate everything he does."

Crowder is a good building block for Boston and had a solid month of December. In 14 games, he shot 46 percent from the field and made 37 percent of his three pointers. As Boston chases Toronto for the Atlantic Division, having a versatile player like Crowder will be a great benefit. He's a good second option on offense and is a good enough defender to match up with the other team's best perimeter player.

Player to watch: Jared Sullinger

The Celtics have a motley crue of big men, and Sullinger has started 29 games in the frontcourt for Boston. He leads the power forward/center collective in minutes, averaging a shade under 25 a night. He's a bit undersized at 6'9, but it hasn't hurt him much as he's been one of the NBA's ten best rebounders. Sully  is also a solid post defender, holding opponents to 36.7 percent shooting when they venture into the low post.

Sully isn't a favorite of Nets fans after this dust up with Brook Lopez on Saturday:

Sullinger only played five minutes in the second half and didn't play at all in the fourth quarter. It'll be interesting to see if the refs are quick with their whistles tonight.

When used properly, Brook Lopez can be a battering ram on the inside. Lopez scored a game high 30 points and was instrumental to Brooklyn holding on to the lead in the fourth. Lopez is still Brooklyn's most important player and when they keep him involved in the offense, he will create good shot opportunities for himself.

From the Vault

The Nets and Celtics do have a (brief) history of getting chippy...

More reading: CelticsBlog