This Christmas Day, the Brooklyn Nets (14-12) will host the Boston Celtics (13-13) at Barclays Center at 12 noon. This will be the first game of a quintuple header of NBA games on ESPN and ABC. The Nets have not been playing well of late and have lost 8 of their past 11 games, although they are coming off a close win over Philadelphia on Sunday. Boston is not playing well either and the Celtics have lost 3 of their last 4 including a home overtime loss to Milwaukee on Friday. The Celtics have not played at all since that game, so they should be well-rested.
The Nets are 2-0 against the Celtics this season, with one win coming at home and one coming on the road. The first game was on national TV and saw the Nets win a close game at home. The second game in Boston was highlighted by a brawl between the teams started by Rajon Rondo after a hard foul by Kris Humphries. Humphries, Rondo, and Gerald Wallace were all ejected after the fight. The Nets ended up blowing out the Celtics in that game. For this game, the teams will be wearing special Christmas uniforms which you can see here.
This game is definitely an important one for the Brooklyn Nets. They haven’t played a game on Christmas in 10 years since 2002, where they blew out these same Boston Celtics at home while on their way to the NBA finals for the second straight season. The Nets will also be looking to win 3 games against Boston in the same season since 2006 when they won nearly 50 games.
Injuries: For the Nets, Kris Humphries will likely be out because of an abdomen issue. He may not have played anyway because he is in Coach Avery’s doghouse. Boston will be missing a couple of key players. Chris Wilcox will miss the game with a thumb injury. That will make an already very small team even smaller. Leandro Barbosa will also miss the game for personal reasons. Avery Bradley has still yet to play a game this season for Boston.
Deron Williams vs. Rajon Rondo. Advantage: Rondo
Will Rajon Rondo finally play a full game against the Nets? In the teams’ previous two meeting, Rondo missed one game with an injury and got ejected in the second quarter of the other game. He is expected to play a full game tonight. Rondo has been a bright spot for Boston this season averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds, and field goal percentage. He is leading the NBA in assists per game. Deron Williams has really struggled on defense this year and he will have a hard time keeping Rondo in front of him. Maybe D-Will will finally have his first good game of the season on national television.
Joe Johnson vs. Jason Terry. Advantage: Johnson
The Celtics really need Avery Bradley to return because Jason Terry is really not getting the job done in the starting lineup. He is only averaging 11 ppg, his lowest scoring average since his rookie season in 2000. He is also shooting poorly from the field and from 3. Terry is only 6’2, so Joe Johnson should have another big height advantage today. I am expecting a big game from Johnson, maybe 25+ points. He has been playing much better recently and he definitely doesn’t like the Celtics after losing to them in the playoffs so many times when he was in Atlanta. He will see some favorable matchups tonight and he should take advantage of them.
Keith Bogans vs. Paul Pierce. Advantage: Pierce
At age 35, Pierce is still playing very well. He is averaging 21 ppg, 6 rpg, and 4 apg this year and is also coming into this game very hot. He has scored a combined 75 points in his last 2 games. He has a very good matchup going up against Bogans. Expect Pierce to guard either Joe Johnson or Gerald Wallace and leave Jason Terry of Courtney Lee to guard Bogans. Bogans will only be looking to shoot 3’s, so if the Celtics can stick on him outside the 3-point arc, he will not do much damage.
Gerald Wallace vs. Kevin Garnett. Advantage: Garnett
Expect Wallace to guard Paul Pierce while Brook Lopez will guard Garnett. KG is still playing at a high level this year and his mid-range jump shots are as deadly as ever. Wallace is coming off of one of his better games against Philadelphia on Sunday and has been one of the Nets’ most valuable players this year. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Wallace plays at power forward tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. Jason Collins. Advantage: Lopez
Collins has started the last 2 games for Boston and has scored a combined 3 points in those starts. He probably won’t play much more than 20 minutes tonight. Collins is mainly used for his defense and his pick-setting on offense. Lopez is due for a big game and this might be a day where it will happen.
Prediction: Celtics 97, Nets 95.
The Celtics are a team that has not played well yet this year but they can flip a switch to play well if they are playing in a big game. This game will be seen by many all over the world on television and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett don’t like all the attention that Brooklyn has gotten this year or the fact that the Nets are 2-0 against the Celtics in 2012. This will be a very close game, but Boston will find a way to win.