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Home at last, Home at last. Nets await Celtics at sold-out Barclays

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Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Okay, so the final tally of The Big Road Trip was 2-5 with just a Lou Williams Buzzer Beater and a Double Overtime game in Portland away from being 4-3. Could’ve been better, could’ve been worse. The Nets are still fighting down at the bottom of the Eastern Conference Playoff picture with Detroit, Miami, Orlando, and Charlotte all looking to grab one of the final three spots. It’s going to be a very interesting finish to the season. The Nets have just six games left in order to secure a playoff spot, which I think most of us fully support. I’m sure there are still some “drop out and get a better draft pick” advocates lurking around somewhere, but we’ve waited too damn long for this team to just blow it at the last minute.

The Celtics, who won on Friday night before facing off against the Nets Saturday(!!), have locked up the fifth seed in the playoffs already. A hidden advantage of the Nets final run against Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto, Milwaukee, Indiana, and Miami is that the next five matchups are against teams that have locked up playoff spots already. We might see some resting stars and some “I’m just ready for the playoffs to start, this is boring now” performances. Cross your fingers!! Boston is maybe good, definitely a mess, and one of the most confusing stories of this entire season. Let’s get into it.

Where to Follow the Game

YES and WCBS 880 at 6pm, ET. FYI, the game is sold out!

Injuries

Allen Crabbe is still dealing with some of the effects of his knee injury and is out.

Al Horford and Kyrie Irving are both late scratches and Jayson Tatum (illness) is questionable. Robert Williams (back) is probable. Boston beat Indiana Friday night with both Horford and Irving playing 35 minutes.

The Game

The Boston Celtics are fifth in the entire league in Net Rating, and fifth in the Eastern Conference. Going by wins, they’re tied for ninth in the league with Utah and Los Angeles (Clippers) which doesn’t really add up. Something has been going on in Boston all season, and they always seem to be on the brink of becoming an absolute team chemistry disaster. A lot of the blame has been pinned on Kyrie Irving, who has gotten his PhD at the LeBron James school of Calling Out Your Teammates In Postgame Interviews, and also just seems like a dude with a strong personality on a team of young, impressionable, talented players.

The weirdest part? Kyrie has been lights out this season. 23.8 points per game, 7.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 59 percent True Shooting, and 49/39/86 splits. My guy is shooting 53 percent on two pointers. You’d think that a point guard that’s playing that well would help his team get to their expected level of performance, but so far it just has not worked out. Part of the problem is that Al Horford has missed some time due to injury, and Jayson Tatum is just not progressing the way a lot of people assumed he would in year two.

Jayson Tatum has looked much more vulnerable, and much more lost on the court at times than he did as a rookie, which is wild. He was like three jump shots away from leading his team to the NBA Finals last season, and you’d think those reps would push him to the next level. He serves as a solid reminder that player development isn’t always linear, and can sometimes get a little wonky before a guy reaches his true potential. In a couple of years we might be thinking “damn remember when Tatum was bad in his sophomore season? Wild. Can’t believe he’s averaging 30 points per game now” and that wouldn’t shock me! Look at all the Nets that have popped in their third or fourth seasons. DLo, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, it’s a long list. It happens.

Speaking of D’Angelo Russell, man did he look tired in that Sixers game. Seven turnovers is just too many turnovers. The Nets have been basically non stop traveling for the entire month, and three straight home games are an absolute blessing. DLo’s hot streak was bound to end at some point, and it’s unfair and unrealistic to expect him to carry this team in a James Harden-esque fashion all the time. Hopefully the other scorers like Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and even DeMarre Carroll can recharge their batteries and help the Nets get out of the offensive funk they’ve been in.

The Terry Rozier/Spencer Dinwiddie matchup is a fun one. Two headstrong scoring point guards who come off of the bench and provide a spark for their team. Dinwiddie has been significantly better than Rozier this season, that isn’t a debate, but they’re both the kind of players that if someone like say, my brother who doesn’t watch basketball, caught them on the right night he’d ask “So, is that the best player on the team?”. Scary Terry has been more scary for Boston fans than Brooklyn fans this season, averaging 10.3 points per game and shooting just 3 of 16 from deep in his three matchups against the Nets this season. Dinwiddie missed one of the games, but in the other two he’s averaging 11.5 points per game, which is significantly under his season mark of 17.4, so maybe we’ll see him get bumped back up to the mean in this one.

Player to Watch

Jaylen Brown, the other young and talented Celtics wing, has been quite good since the All Star break, and is looking as if he might be a truly major asset either going forward on this Celtics team, or in a potential trade for Anthony Davis. He’s always been a solid defender, but over the last couple of months he’s scoring 13.9 points on 50% shooting from the field and 40% shooting from three, and has the chance to become a real impact 3-and-D guy. He isn’t any sort of an impact facilitator, averaging just 1.4 assists per game, but he can keep the ball moving when he needs to and can kind of exist all over the floor on both ends of the court which is always a huge asset.

Serious question: Who would you rather take, right now, on a five-year, $90 million hypothetical contract, Tatum or Brown? I’m still going Tatum, I think, but it’s a lot closer than I would’ve expected it to be just six months ago.

From The Vault

Enjoy.

For a different perspective, head on over to Celtics Blog, our sister site on SB Nation.