Fresh off a win in Milwaukee on Saturday night, the Brooklyn Nets (6-14) return home to face a familiar opponent, the surprising first place Boston Celtics (10-12). The Nets expect Deron Williams and possibly even Paul Pierce to be back for tonight’s game. This will be the first time Pierce and Kevin Garnett face their former team. Even though the game will be in Brooklyn, it still could feel strange for those two players.
This will also be the return of Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, and Keith Bogans to Brooklyn. Only Humphries and Wallace are in the rotation, and none of the players are starters. Boston probably hasn’t been thrilled with these additions from the trade. However, they are definitely thrilled with the 3 first round picks they acquired from the Nets, including one first-rounder in next year’s draft.
The Celtics have been good so far this year because all their players are unselfish. Every player in the starting lineup is averaging 10 ppg this year, which is a great sign. They believe that they can hang on and win this division because 1. it is really bad and 2. Rajon Rondo is still not healthy. When Rondo comes back, Boston should definitely be a playoff team.
Deron Williams vs. Avery Bradley. Advantage: Williams
Deron Williams now just needs to stay healthy and stay on the court. I expect him to be on a minutes restriction tonight, but that doesn’t mean he still won’t find a way to hurt his ankle. He hasn’t had a chance to get into a rhythm yet this year. Avery Bradley really is not a point guard, but Boston doesn’t have a healthy point guard without Rajon Rondo. Bradley is still a good shooter and a good defender and he could cause Deron Williams some problems if he doesn’t get into foul trouble.
Joe Johnson vs. Jordan Crawford. Advantage: Johnson
Crawford, a former Nets draft pick, has been having the best season of his career this year and is really running the Celtics’ offense and leading the team in assists. His shot selection has been much better this year than ever before. Hopefully Joe Johnson will be able to get a little bit more rest tonight with Paul Pierce back in the lineup. He has been playing too many minutes recently.
Paul Pierce vs. Jeff Green. Advantage: Green
Jeff Green will be going up against his former mentor tonight in Paul Pierce. Green is putting up numbers very similar to last season this year and he is Boston’s leading scorer. He is bigger and faster than Pierce, so this would have been a nice game for Andrei Kirilenko to play in. I don’t expect much at all from Pierce tonight and I don’t think he will play more than around 20 minutes. Also, his shot may be very off while wearing a cast on his hand. Still, it must feel weird for him to play against the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett vs. Brandon Bass. Advantage: Bass
These two players know each other very well after battling in practice for so many years. Garnett has always had the upper-hand, but maybe not anymore. Bass is having the better year for Boston and has always seemed to have good games against the Nets. Garnett didn’t play horribly on Saturday night in Milwaukee, but he has not played well at all this year.
Brook Lopez vs. Jared Sullinger. Advantage: Lopez
Sullinger is a very undersized center at 6’9. He shoots some 3’s, but is also a good scorer in the paint and a good rebounder. This is another opportunity for Brook Lopez to dominate against an undersized team. Sullinger should not be able to guard Lopez. The Nets should go to him early and often in this game.
Bold prediction: Deron Williams won’t re-injure his ankle. This is very bold in my opinion, because he seems to get injured in every game he has played this year.
Score prediction: Celtics 103, Nets 96. The Nets will keep it close, but Boston is just a better team right now and they have a lot more confidence.
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