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Nets begin February in Boston vs. Celtics

Game preview for Wednesday night’s matchup between the first place Celtics and the surging Brooklyn Nets.

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Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors

The B in Brooklyn is for Bench Mob! The Brooklyn Nets slept walk through much of the night, but the bench carried the day and they did just enough to beat a shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers team at Barclays Center on Monday night. As we enter into a new month, the Nets find themselves solidly in fourth place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

The opponent tonight stands on top of the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA and are a good bet to be on top the East come playoff time. They’ve been off since Saturday after the referees handed them a win they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime on ABC.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for us. ESPN for everybody else. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 PM.


No Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and TJ Warren tonight. Yuta Watanabe s probable with back tightness.

Danilo Gallinari and Marcus Smart are out. Robert Williams is questionable with a left ankle sprain.

The game

The Celtics won the first game in December and second one in January. The teams wrap up the regular season series in Boston in March.

The streak is at nine. It’s been a while since the Nets last beat this team, and if they want to make it to where they wanna go, they’re gonna have to go through the C’s. Tough sledding.

It doesn’t matter where you go, you always want to feel like you’re contributing. You want to be a part of the success and have the opportunity to show your skills and what you bring to the team. Consider the tale of Payton Pritchard. PP was a solid contributor last year, but has fallen behind Malcolm Brogdon on the depth chart this year. He was asked about his future in a recent interview and said:

“After I’m done here, after this year, I’d like to be part of a bigger role a little bit. I definitely do, it’s obviously what I worked for. I think that’s what Brad and them know too, we’ve had that discussion, but a bigger role. I want to be part of a winning culture but I want to also help that, be a really big piece of that. I’m not saying it’s the best player on the team but I don’t know what my future holds unless I can take that next step.”

You can understand where he’s coming from.

The Nets are going to need all hands on deck to slow down one of the MVP contenders. Jayson Tatum is fourth in the league in scoring this year at 31.1 points per game on .465/.350/.869 shooting splits. The C’s count on Tatum a lot and he’s averaging 37.5 minutes per game, second highest in the NBA. Tatum can get going from all three levels and his size makes him incredibly difficult to slow down. For as great as he’s been, he’s had a tough go of it against Brooklyn this season. Although Tatum scored 30 points on .526/.500/1.000 splits in the first meeting back in December, he had a career high nine turnovers along the way. In the January meeting, he cut the turnovers down to three, but wound up shooting .318/.200/1.000 that night. With a few days off, Tatum will be refreshed and ready to make something happen.

Without Durant and Simmons, who will get the Jayson Tatum assignment? That job will probably fall to Royce O’Neale. O’Neale has gotten the lead assignment against elite perimeter players and he figures to be first up on JT.

With Robert Williams less than one hundred percent, that could give the Nets the advantage on the inside. Nic Claxton didn’t have his usual incredible game, but 12 rebounds and three assists from your starting center is still a pretty great day at the office. Brooklyn also got a fairly excellent game from Day’Ron Sharpe Monday night. Sharpe grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked two shots in 20 minutes. Brooklyn can use all the frontcourt help they can get, and if Sharpe is able to contribute when he gets on the court, it’ll be a welcome development for him.

Boston will counter with Al Horford in the middle. Big Al has

The possession battle will be critical tonight. For as great as the Celtics defense is, they don’t turn teams over very much. They have the fourth lowest opponent turnover rate in the NBA this year, and for Brooklyn, this means they’ll have opportunities to maximize every possession.

Success from three point range will play a big part in this one. Boston is first in attempts and eighth in efficiency while Brooklyn is 23rd in attempts while second in efficiency. For the Nets, Joe Harris has adapted well in his return to the starting five and will be counted on to heat up from distance. The Nets have run into big trouble when they play small against Boston, so we’ll see if Patty Mills has a chance to get some playing time tonight. Even when he’s on the bench for months, you can count on Mills to get on the court and find his spots from deep no matter the situation.

The Nets are down two shot creators, so Cam Thomas will have the chance to make another big impact. Thomas played 23 minutes on Monday and heated things up with a hyper efficient 21 points on 8-of-13 from the field with four made 3-pointers. He’s now shooting a 38.6% from deep from the season. Thomas plays with a bounciness that the Nets can use and if they’re sleepwalking again, he can snap them out of it. With this being a national TV game against a division rival, everyone ought to be locked in as soon as they walk in to the building.

Player to watch: Jaylen Brown

The best team in the league always sends multiple All Stars to the big game, and Jaylen Brown figures to be no exception. At Sports Illustrated, Chris Herring wrote about Brown’s All Star chances and wrote:

“Brown’s case to make the team is nearly just as clear-cut [as Joel Embiid’s]. His stroke from the arc has been off-target—the worst of his career, in fact—but the combination of his aggressiveness in getting to the line and sinking his midrange looks at career-best rates are more than enough. They both have a lot to do with how he’s logging 27 points per night for the East’s top team.”

True indeed. Brown came through in the clutch on Saturday after two missed free throws in the final seconds doomed the C’s against the New York Knicks. It’s good for championship teams to be tested like that, and these experiences will be valuable teaching lessons for Brown and his teammates.

The game is on ESPN, we’re in the Northeast, and a former number one pick is returning to face his former team. If you thought Ben Simmons dealt with negativity last week in Philly, woo buddy you’re in for a fun time tonight! Boston still despises Kyrie Irving, and a whole lot of negativity will be in the air tonight. Without Durant last time, Boston made sure to focus all their attention on Irving, and it worked to the tune of 9-24 from the field and 3-11 from downtown. This time around, we’ll see what Irving can do to counteract the attention he’s gonna get. On the season, Irving is third in the NBA in minutes per game at 37.1 a night. The Nets have two days off before starting a seven game stretch in New York that will carry them into the All Star break. Look for Jacque Vaughn to push Irving a little bit more if the game is close throughout.

DraftKings Odds [via Tom Lorenzo]

Brooklyn Nets +9; ML +320

Over/Under: 224.5

The Brooklyn Nets are getting 9 points on the road in Boston. Hmm. This feels like a trap. No Kevin Durant or Ben Simmons for the Nets, but also no Marcus Smart and potentially no Robert Williams for the Celtics; which I like. But I’m just not sure that the Nets can hang with the Celtics offensively unless they go show us a glorious 3-point shooting exhibition. It’s possible, but I’m still having a hard time getting to within 9 points on the road in Boston.

The Celtics have shown already this season that they can run the Nets off the court, so I am inclined to take the Celtics at -9 and struggle to see where the Nets can score north of 100 in this one, so am also going to take the UNDER at 224.5.

The saving grace would need to be a classic Joe Harris game or a classic Seth Curry game - or, hell, both!

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