Another win!! The Nets downed the Bulls 117-100 in a largely drama-free game and 2019 is off to a roaring start. The Nets are now 20-21 and looking to fortify their current seventh seed in the East. Always nice to cap off the week with a win … but not so nice to start off the week with a back-to-back with one of the better teams in the league.
The Nets are flying over to Boston for this next one, the first time they’ll see their Atlantic Division rivals this season. The Celtics have had an odd year to far, under performing their lofty expectations while dealing with what may just be too much (healthy) talent. Still, they sit just four and a half games out of first and are going to be a tough opponent on any night, back-to-back or not. Let’s get into it.
Where To Follow The Game
YES and WFAN at 7:30 pm, ET.
Caris LeVert (foot) Allen Crabbe (knee) Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (adductor) and Dzanan Musa (shoulder) are all still recovering. Joe Harris twisted his ankle against the Bulls but seemed like he’s going to be fine. The Nets, of course, are notoriously conservative when it comes to injury. So you never know.
I’m usually a pretty optimistic fan. Even during the losing streak when I briefly pivoted to Team Tank, it was with the angle of “This is going to be fun let’s go get Zion”. It’s tough to really discourage me. With that being said, I wouldn’t be too surprised if this next one is a good old fashioned Scheduled Loss. Playing a back-to-back with travel against a talented and well coached team like Boston is just not an optimum situation.
The Celtics have one of the deepest rosters in the league. Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier. It’s kind of wild. Basically every guy they pull off the bench is either a seasoned vet, a talented young guy, or one of those players that makes the right plays and elicits the reaction Ugh, that guy? Really? This may be the kind of team that just takes the regular season to figure it all out and ramps it up come playoff time.
If the Nets want to steal a win and continue the winning streak, they’re going to have to bring it from multiple positions. At point guard we’re in a DLo boom and a Dinwiddie backseat period right now. That seems to be how it goes. Either one is killing it and the other is playing sidekick.
That’s honestly a fine strategy considering the two haven’t always played well together and it means the offense can have more of a singular focus during each game. The real secret weapon lately has been Shabazz Napier who’s been playing really well of late and poured in another 18 points against Chicago. In fact, he’s averaging 18 points since he rejoined the rotation four games ago. He’s also averaging four assists in 26 minutes. He’s also shooting 41.7 percent from three.
Kyrie Irving is in a lot of ways the ideal final evolution of D’Angelo Russell. In their age-22 seasons (this season for DLo and 2014-15 for Kyrie) D’Angelo edges Kyrie out in points, assists, and rebounds per 36 minutes. Kyrie shot better percentages from the field, and it’s clear D’Angelo needs to get to the line more, but they come from a similar mold of player. Those super talented, high draft pick, insane preternatural court vision point guards. There’s no reason D’Angelo can’t become an All-Star caliber player and Kyrie should serve as inspiration. His recent four-game streak —26.5 points and 7.5 assists— proves it. He’s looked awesome.
Surprisingly, Boston has the fourth best Net Rating in the league at 5.9 and rank 10th in Offensive Rating and 4th in Defensive rating. This is discouraging for everyone rooting for the Celtics to continue to pay under their talent level, as these numbers are fairly indicative of a talented team that’s caught some bad breaks and lost some games they probably shouldn’t have.
Once again, this is going to be a tough opponent all season long with three more match-ups between this season. Oddly enough, Brooklyn and Boston play three times in January: Monday, the 14th, and the 28th. We’re going to see a lot of these guys this month.
One of the Celtics biggest threats, Jayson Tatum, is averaging just 9.8 points per game in his last 5 while shooting abysmal percentages from the field. Body-wise, DeMarre Carroll is a solid defensive matchup for the kid, and in a perfect world Rondae-Hollis Jefferson would be healthy and able to help out with the Celtics plethora of wings.
Another Celtics-Nets parallel is within the Jarrett Allen/Al Horford comparison. They play different styles, with Horford always having been much more comfortable with the ball in his hands than Allen is (at this point), but they’re both centers who are happy to fill their specific roles in their systems without worrying too much about getting their own numbers.
Allen has shades of that Horford fluidity on defense, as exemplified by his recent crusade to put every star in the league on his poster catalog of blocked shots, and seems to have all the tools necessary to eventually be an effective and creative finisher around the rim as well as an outside shooter. If it can happen to Al Horford and Brook Lopez, it can happen to anyone playing under Kenny Atkinson.
Player To Watch
Marcus Smart is an aggressive, relentless defender and if someone was going to stop this recent DLo dominance streak it would be him. His 6’4;, 220-pound frame is solid. He’s fast, and averages 1.8 steals per game this season. He is also hilarious on offense, possessing the confidence of Kobe Bryant and shooting talent of late career Brandon Jennings. He’s scoring 7.4 points per game on 39 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from three.
Nevertheless, he’s going to run around, cause chaos on defense, and generally disrupt the Nets plans when it’s least convenient for him to do so. He’ll just also brick a couple of threes along the way.
From The Vault
I really love food! Sometimes, when I’m not watching basketball, I watch YouTube videos about food because I’m a Three-Dimensional human with an array of interests and hobbies and things I like, as we all are. Here’s one of those videos because I hope (assume?) you also like food as well.
For a different perspective, head on over to Celtics Blog, the SB Nation fansite.