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Reeling Nets visit Celtics on TNT

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Sacramento Kings v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s getting darker. It's been a frustrating week for the Brooklyn Nets and they hoped to snap out of their funk in Miami on Saturday night. They had a chance to pull off the upset late, but their chances sailed away and they wound up taking a hard loss to the Heat. It was the team’s fourth straight loss.

The opponent tonight will be the Boston Celtics. Brad Stevens has his guys near the top of the conference and are primed to go on a deep playoff run this spring if all goes well. They’ve been off since Saturday night after losing an overtime thriller to the Houston Rockets on ABC.

Where to follow the game

It’s a national TV affair. TNT is on the call. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 8 PM.

Injuries

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are out. Garrett Temple (shoulder sprain) is questionable.

Kemba Walker has been out with a left knee injury, but might be back for this one. Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart both missed practice Monday due to undisclosed illnesses. They’re questionable.

The game

Boston won the first game and Brooklyn took the second one.

Both teams are on the front end of a back-to-back. Brooklyn goes home to play Memphis tomorrow while Boston goes to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers.

I’m not used to Marcus Smart putting up so many threes. He’s taking close to seven three pointers a night and is shooting a respectable 35.5 percent from deep. It adds another layer to a well rounded Celtics team and when you combine Smart’s tenacity on defense, it makes for a perfect combination. Smart can body up with a lot of bigs, but he’ll spend most of his night dealing with Spencer Dinwiddie. Din almost led the Nets to an upset, but things short-circuited on the final possession when the Heat denied Joe Harris a catch and shoot opportunity. To his credit, Dinwiddie hasn’t let rough moments linger so there’s a good chance he has an excellent outing tonight.

Daniel Theis has been one of the more pleasant surprises this season. Replacing Al Horford figured to be a tall task, but he’s done a pretty decent job. Teams are only shooting 54.8 percent inside of six feet when Theis is defending, and that ability to protect the rim is so crucial when teams make it a point of emphasis to get shots at the basket. Theis will battle Jarrett Allen on the boards tonight. When Allen is active and engaged, it makes the Nets a much better team on both sides of the ball.

We’re not at that point yet, but the Nets might need to start worrying about their hold on a playoff spot if they don’t turn it around soon. Losses tend to stack up in a hurry if you’re not careful.

Player to watch: Jayson Tatum

It’s star time. Tatum has fully taken on the responsibility of being the team’s best player and will be the man Brad Stevens turns to to carry things. Tatum can score in the post, at the rim, and is a good, high volume three point shooter. As a lead scorer, he checks off every box you can ask for and his versatility will come in handy if the Celtics wind up playing teams like the Heat and 76ers in the playoffs.

Taurean Prince has the task of guarding Tatum. Prince hit a couple of threes Saturday night, but the team hopes he can put an ace defensive performance together. Now that we’re heading into the stretch run, the Nets are going to need everyone to play a lot better in order to hold on to their playoff positioning.

From the Vault

It’s my birthday on Sunday, and I’m feeling good about turning 30. I can’t think of anything catchy to lead into this, so here’s Jay-Z.

More reading: Celtics Blog