Blowout losses are always concerning. The Brooklyn Nets took a train ride to MSG to face the streaking New York Knicks. It was another bad night for the Nets as they got walloped by the Knicks. They are perilously hanging on to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings and need a win in the worst way.
The opponent tonight is one of the favorites to win the championship. The Boston Celtics have been outstanding this season and are coming off a great win against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Wednesday.
Where to follow the game
YES Network for us. ESPN for the rest of y’all. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m. ET. And if you’re near the Kent Ale House at 51 Kent Avenue, near the corner of North 11th Street for a Nets x Modelo Watch Party.
No Ben Simmons (knee), Edmund Sumner (personal), or Yuta Watanabe (back).
Jaylen Brown got his face fractured a while back, but he’s good to go. Danilo Gallinari is out.
Boston won game one in December, two in January, and three in February. This is the last regular season matchup between the two teams.
Simply put, the Nets defense is a disaster right now. Our pals, Billy Reinhardt and Matt Brooks, made this grim observation on Wednesday
So, Brooklyn has *now* allowed 30+ points in 12 of 16 quarters since the All-Star break and 27+ in 15 of 16. https://t.co/yWJa94iiQf— Matt Brooks (@MattBrooksNBA) March 2, 2023
Ouch. The Nets 3-point defense has been particularly dreadful and that’s a dangerous mix against the Celtics. The C’s are second in threes attempted per game and are fifth in efficiency. Over at Celtics Blog, Bob Manning wrote about Boston’s offense and said:
Boston doesn’t launch jumpers all game. They work for them, but when so many players fill catch-and-shoot roles on the perimeter and their best players don’t excel on pull-up jumpers, it can limit opportunities for bailout baskets outside of transition against tough defenses. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson made it easier to shoot the amount of threes the Warriors did years ago, and all could hit mid-rangers.
The Celtics, on the other hand, don’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo level shooting limitations, hit and generate free throws, aren’t heliocentric and don’t face the Rudy Gobert playoff conundrum Utah did. Brown (49.7%) and Brogdon’s (47.8%) mid-range shots and Tatum’s free throw attempts and finishes give the offense some variety. Their big men don’t shoot at the rim often; Horford and Robert Williams III accounting for only 5.4 shot attempts at the rim per game.
The Nets need to put a full 48-minute effort together if they want to stop their current losing streak and the losing streak they have against Boston. They can’t afford to take any more bad losses.
Cam Johnson has found his 3-point shot again. On Wednesday, he tied a season high in deep shots made with seven in his 27 minutes. For as great as that was, Johnson’s energy after the game was focused on getting the defense right. CJ will probably get assigned to Jaylen Brown tonight. JB has been his usual solid self and is someone the Celtics can count on to make big plays and play heady, intense defense. Boston is a well oiled machine on both sides of the ball and Brown is a huge part of that.
We’ll get a chance to see two of the best wings in the NBA tonight. Mikal Bridges has adjusted to the lead role on the Nets offense and is shooting at .519/.471/.923 splits in seven games while averaging better than 24 points a game. Bridges has been able to score from all over the court and for a Nets team that has become a bit over reliant on 3-pointers, having someone who can operate in the midrange and is a timely cutter can bail the offense out and save possessions. On the other side, Jayson Tatum will look to have a party on his birthday! JT turns 25 today and is a sure bet to make All-NBA when the regular season ends. He’s taken on a bit more responsibility on offense this season, and it’s paid off to the tune of a career high 30.3 points per game on .462/.355/.862 shooting splits in 37 minutes per game. The great thing about Tatum is even when he’s struggling, you can turn to him and count on him to bring you to the finish line. Don’t believe me, just ask the Philadelphia 76ers...
Player to watch: Al Horford
Sometimes, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. A few years ago, Big Al left Boston to join the Philadelphia 76ers, and it didn’t work for him. He made his way back to Boston, and he’s fit in like he never left. He spoke with Jake L. Fischer of Yahoo Sports about his journey back to Boston, saying:
“Living through it, my biggest thing was just, like, focusing on the moment, making the most out of that, for when I got the next opportunity to be ready to make the most of it. For me, I always believed what I could do. That never wavered. But I did want to show the things that were being said about me weren’t it. For me, it was just good to get to a good place, and really the place that I wanted to be, that was Boston.”
When you’re comfortable with a team and city, why leave? He’s fit into his role perfectly and can switch on to guards, battle with big players on the inside, and operate the offense from the high post. Every team needs a solid veteran to keep things humming along, and Horford fits that role to a tee in Boston.
Somebody’s gotta help Nic Claxton out. Clax has been great, but the team hasn’t been able to complete possessions and snag rebounds to get out in transition and attack. He’s still been excellent and has taken the challenge of contesting anything in his orbit. The Nets don’t have a suitable backup big man, and that is a failing of management at the trade deadline. When you plan to manage his minutes down the stretch, it was imperative to find somebody who could come close to matching his productivity so he could get some rest. The current plan with Simmons out is to have Dorian Finney-Smith as backup center, but this is the most he’s ever played at center in his career. It’s a big ask for a player joining a new team in the back half of the season and with no practice time to play a new position, but that’s the position the Nets find themselves in. Just gotta figure it out.
DraftKings Odds [via Tom Lorenzo]
Odds: Celtics -8.5; Nets ML +285
It feels like one thing is safe tonight and that’s the OVER. Since the All-Star break the Nets have posted a 125.6 DRtg which is the second worst in the NBA. Just really, really bad. The Celtics haven’t been much better, with a 120.1 DRtg since the ASB. Yet, the thing probably keeping people from grabbing the Over is the question as to whether the Nets can score 100+ points tonight.
I hate that I just had to write that sentence.
Still, I feel pretty confident in the Celtics dropping north of 125 points and can see a scenario in which the Nets garbage-time their way into over 100+ points. So I’m going with the OVER.
As for as the spread goes, the Celtics giving up 8.5 points feels like the play here. There’s been no reason to think that the Nets have a miracle game in them right now, so I would be a bit more comfortable in a 128-109 type of scenario. Give me the Celtics and the -8.5.
From the Vault
De La Soul’s first six albums have finally made it to streaming, so let’s pull up one of my favorite tracks on the immortal “Stakes is High”
More reading: Celtics Blog
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- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Boston Celtics Game Notes - Boston Celtics
- Jayson Tatum heating up as Celtics host Nets - STATS
- Brooklyn visits Boston following Tatum’s 41-point game - AP
- Nets blew chance to own New York: Can they ever recover? - Ian O’Connor - New York Post
- Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau, Nets’ Jacque Vaughn acknowledge sacrifice of bench vets - Anthony Rieber - Newsday
- Mitchell Robinson crowns himself ‘Best Center in New York’ after beating Nic Claxton - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Nets’ final 20 games: The good, the bad and Ben Simmons - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic
- Is Grant Williams falling out of Celtics’ rotation? - Adam Himmelsbach - Boston Globe