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Nets host Celtics on TNT as NBA returns to action

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Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

We back on the block. The Brooklyn Nets have been off for a week, and the time off did them some good. As they gear up for the stretch run and hopes of avoiding the playin, they’re going to need a lot to go right for them. When last we saw them, they lost at home to the Washington Wizards to head into the All Star Break.

The opponent tonight will be the Boston Celtics. Ime Udoka and friends have figured things out after a rocky start to the season. They went into the break on a sour note after losing at home to the Detroit Pistons. The L snapped their nine game winning streak.

Where to follow the game

TNT on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m.

Injuries

Joe Harris is out. Kevin Durant is out, but appears to be close to getting back on the court. Kyrie Irving is out since this game is in NYC, but that may be changing soon enough. Ben Simmons is doing a ramp up, and since the Nets don’t like telling us things, who knows when he’ll make his Nets debut. Same for the new guy, Goran Dragic.

Marcus Smart suffered a sprained ankle against the Philadelphia 76ers and Robert Williams missed the last two games of the first half with right calf soreness. Neither are on the injury report (nobody is in fact) and coach Ime Udoka expects both of them to play in this game.

The game

Brooklyn won the first matchup in late November while Boston grabbed the second one in early February. These teams wrap up the season series in early March.

How do you respond after a team knocks you around by 35 points? That’s the question the Nets will have to answer after the beatdown the C’s gave them in the last game. That game was on TNT as well, so here’s hoping they don’t suffer any “technical difficulties” this time around.

Jayson Tatum had himself a wonderful All Star weekend. He appeared in the game on Sunday night and got to soak up game from all of the Celtics legends that were being honored at the NBA 75 celebration. He’s mentioned that as the team has gotten healthier, they’ve started to figure things out on defense. Boston’s defense has jumped all the way up to second in defensive rating on the season and over the last 15 games, they’ve gotten even better as they’ve held teams to 98.5 points per 100 possessions.

On the offensive side, Tatum is hoping to find his groove from downtown. He’s at a career low 32.9 percent from downtown on eight attempts a game. He’s still an elite scorer, but if he can get his three point shooting back on track, it will open things up for him in a major way.

Patty Mills had himself a good weekend as well. He piled up 21 points in the three point contest, and although he didn’t make it to the final round, he represented himself well. The few days off ought to help him recharge and as the team fights to climb the standings, having Mills will go a long way to helping the cause.

Before the break, Steve Nash mentioned that the team wanted Andre Drummond to get in better condition as he’ll be playing a lot more than he did on the 76ers. Drummond was visibly exhausted against the Wizards and had his worst game as a Net so far. He’s been rock solid otherwise so the more reps he gets, the better he’ll be. The team has a full big man room, which presents some issues as to who gets minutes. So far, the odd man out has been Nic Claxton, but you have to be ready at all times and if Clax’s number is called, he’ll have to handle business.

With Dragic on the way and Jevon Carter reportedly on his way to the Milwaukee Bucks, to join DeAndre’ Bembry, the Nets will be down a ballhandler tonight. Luckily, James Johnson is back so that will help things a bit in that regard. Getting the other guys back will help more, but that’s to be determined.

Player to watch: Derrick White

The C’s got busy at the deadline as they picked up White from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, and two first round draft picks. The move has gotten some criticism, but the move could wind up working out. Jack Simone of Celtics Blog explains:

However, the easy counterpoint to that argument can be found with the Celtics’ recent history. As mentioned, the NBA is at a point where pleasing superstars needs to be every team’s top priority. If the Celtics keep their pick in favor of adding more young talent, there’s always the chance they run into another dud.

With every Robert Williams comes a Carsen Edwards. Every Payton Pritchard comes with a James Young. Terry Rozier vs. RJ Hunter. Grant Williams vs. Guerschon Yabusele. You get the picture.

Desperately holding onto picks in hopes of hitting on a young, potential-filled prospect is one of the main criticisms of Danny Ainge’s tenure in Boston. But now that Stevens is taking the opposite philosophy, he’s receiving just as much backlash. It’s a lose-lose scenario when it comes to fan complaints, but with Brown and Tatum coming up on contract years, Stevens took the approach of putting proven talent around them.

White gives the Celtics another elite defender and is someone that can give you a little bit of scoring as well. He’s a good hand and for a team looking to stay in the playoff chase, he’ll help in a major way.

So far, Seth Curry has had a nice transition to Brooklyn. In his three games before the break, he averaged 18 points a night on a silky smooth .488/.522/1.000 shooting split. Brooklyn’s three point shooting has been in the toilet since Harris’ injury, and having one of the game’s greatest shooters will open things up in a major way.

From the Vault

Happy belated birthday, Dr. J!

And it’s always a good time for Kobe.

More reading: Celtics Blog