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Nets discuss the challenge of the Boston Celtics

NBA: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics have won 12 straight games, making them the hottest team in the NBA ahead of their match-up against the Brooklyn Nets.

Simply put, even though Irving missed the Celtics’ Sunday victory over the Toronto Raptors, the Boston bunch are the best team in basketball right now, and Irving could make his return in Brooklyn on Tuesday night after the short absence.

It would also come on the Nets’ first night without D’Angelo Russell, who is out with a knee contusion, since the Nets managed to take down the Cleveland Cavaliers at Barclays Center in late October.

Kenny Atkinson told reporters before the game that he expects Caris LeVert to bring up the ball. It goes with their ‘next man up’ mentality. Along with that, Jarrett Allen will suit up.

However, the man who stepped up the last time Russell was out was Spencer Dinwiddie. He had a career-best 22 points against LeBron James and the Cavs, and will now face the King’s former running mate, whom he was complimentary of after Monday’s practice.

“I mean, he’s one of the shiftiest guards in the league,” Dinwiddie offered of Irving. “Beyond that the Celtics are probably playing the best basketball in the NBA right now. Them and the Warriors really, they’re on a 12-game winning streak. It’s more than obviously just Kyrie – we just have to go out there, stick to our principles and play hard.”

Atkinson shared Dinwiddie’s same sentiment regarding the Celtics playing the best ball in the NBA right now, and essentially referred to their outlook as a dream scenario, combining young prospects like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier with the aforementioned Irving, and Atkinson’s former player, Al Horford.

“It’s unbelievable,” Atkinson said, marveling at Boston. “You know, I’m thinking in the car today, they have a lot of athleticism. When you start accumulating high first round picks, after a while, just in general, they’ve been in that kind of wheelhouse over the years, it just adds up. They have a lot of talent; they have a lot of athletic talent. Then they have (Al) Horford and (Kyrie) Irving to kind of steer the ship. That to me is almost the perfect formula. You have two all-stars, vets, and then you have a young crew learning around them.”

Without Russell, Caris LeVert, who has shot over 50% through his last three games, says it’s next man up, a mentality the Nets have learned to adopt quickly with nagging injuries already making waves in Brooklyn since the season’s beginning.

“Everybody has to do their job,” said LeVert. “We don’t need more than what we have, we just need everybody. We need everybody at their best and everybody playing hard. We could win games without him (Russell), but like I said, everybody has to play well.”

The Celtics have been on a run, and it will be a tough matchup for Brooklyn to face off against one of the NBA’s toughest teams all around. The Nets have shown that they can win games they shouldn’t, and lose games they should probably win. Perhaps Tuesday night could be the former.

We’ll find out which Nets team will show soon enough. It won’t be easy.