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Nets visit Celtics in national TV showdown

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Boston Celtics v. Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

No more margin for error. On Thursday night, the Brooklyn Nets were up by as many as 16 points against a shorthanded, depleted Miami Heat team. However, as is their wont, the Nets tricked the lead off and suffered another dispiriting home loss. They've fallen all the way down to .500 and things won't be getting any easier from here.

The opponent today will be the Boston Celtics. Ime Udoka and friends have figured things out and are charging up the Eastern Conference standings as we draw closer to the end of the regular season. They played the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night and came away with an impressive 13 point victory. The C’s have moved all the way up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference and have a puncher’s chance of rising even higher before the regular season ends.

Where to follow the game

ABC on TV. WFAN on radio. Daytime affair so we getting started after 1:00 p.m.

Injuries

It was announced on Thursday that Joe Harris will have to undergo another surgery on his ankle and he will be out for the rest of the season. Ben Simmons is still out. Seth Curry is dealing with some ankle soreness and is listed as probable. Day’Ron Sharpe and David Duke, Jr. are back with the G-League squad. Steve Nash is out of COVID protocols and will be back on the sidelines today.

Aaron Nesmith sprained his ankle on Thursday against the Grizz and had to leave the game. He’s out. Jaylen Brown sprained his ankle against the Atlanta Hawks earlier this week and is listed as questionable for today’s game. The Celtics have a familiar name joining them on Sunday. Nik Stauskas, the former Net, erupted for 57 and 43 points in consecutive G Leaue games with the Grand Rapids Gold last week. Boston has signed him to a two-year deal.

The game

Brooklyn took game one in November while Boston got games two and three in February.

Amazingly, the Nets have not had a lead in any of the last two games against the Celtics. It’s been back to back ass whoopings handed out by Boston and Brooklyn needs to get off to a strong start today. The Nets have better odds today, but it’ll still be a tough challenge for them this afternoon.

A funny thing happened since the last time the Nets were in Boston all the way back in November. The C’s have figured things out and for the first time in a while, have good vibes. Over at Celtics Blog, Keith P. Smith wrote about the team and noted:

Playing with a great edge? Check. The Celtics will dunk on you, tell you about it, flex a bit and then walk away laughing to high-fives from their teammates.

A team that plays with grit and toughness? Check and check. Udoka’s “switch everything” scheme demands you hold your own, no matter who you are asked to defend. You might catch an elbow or get throw around a little. You’ll hit a million screens. You will get knocked down, but you’ll get back up with a little help from your teammates.

Looks good.

If you’re as confused as we are by the Nets center rotation, join the club. Andre Drummond bats leadoff and has been working to improve his conditioning to account for his increased workload. LaMarcus Aldridge has gotten most of the backup big minutes, but he’s been struggling on defense over the past week and his offense hasn’t been enough to overcome it. In theory, Nic Claxton should see more minutes, but he’s essentially out of the rotation for the most part. He’s looked good in his cameos this week, but hasn’t been entrusted to close games out like he was at the beginning of the season.

Which ever big sees the floor, they’ll have to contend with Robert Williams. The Time Lord has been magnificent and is second in the league in blocks.

We’ve got a battle of Olympic teammates on the hardwood today. Jayson Tatum is still shooting a career low 32.8 percent from three point range and is shooting at a 31.9 percent clip coming out of the All Star break, but it hasn’t bothered him too much as he’s averaging 30 points, seven rebounds, and five assists a night post All Star. Tatum turned 24 years old on March 3, and has established himself as the go-to guy for Boston going forward.

Kevin Durant is back, and he’ll have to keep going at full speed in order for the Nets to avoid disaster. KD looked like his old self on Thursday night as his 31 points led the team in his 35 minutes. Brooklyn went super small late and played KD at the five, which worked incredibly well in the time they ran it. Time is ticking, but thankfully Durant is here to right the ship.

Player to watch: Marcus Smart

So, on the season, Smart is shooting around 32 percent from three point range. However, against the Nets, he turns into a Splash Brother. In the three games against Brooklyn this season, he’s shooting 51.8 percent from downtown. You’ll never count on Smart to give you a lot of offense, so if he gives you anything useful on that end, it’s gravy. He helps anchor an elite Boston defense that has been the stingiest in the East this season.

Last time Kyrie Irving was in Boston, he whooped the hell out of the Celtics in game four of the first round playoff series last spring. After the game, the Boston folks got #bigmad and all hell broke loose. He and the Nets are still hoping Eric Adams bails them out, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon. In the meantime, Irving is hoping to build off his showcase against the Milwaukee Bucks last weekend. The Nets will need Irving to be as aggressive as possible this week as they’ve got playoff contenders on deck for the games he’s available in. Irving provides the Nets with one of the best downhill threats in basketball and if he’s putting that pressure on the opposing defense, it’ll open everything up for his teammates.

From the Vault

Later tonight, Winning Time will debut on HBO. It’s based off of the excellent book, “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” by Jeff Pearlman. Eventually, the show will get to the Lakers vs. Celtics and this magic moment will appear

More reading: Celtics Blog

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