There is literally nothing better than beating the Knicks. I’d rather the Nets beat the Knicks than like, the Warriors or something. I’d rather the Nets beat the Knicks than have a really good slice of pizza. I’d rather the Nets beat the Knicks than have Kawhi Leonard sign in Brooklyn this summer. (Okay, maybe not that last one … but you get the picture.) And on Friday, the Nets did just that, cruising to a 109-99 victory against the crosstown rivals. Feels good.
Another division rival, the Boston Celtics, are due up to either join Brooklyn’s victim list or be the team to put an end to their current six-game winning streak. Boston lost to Golden State on Saturday and despite the fact that the Warriors are the Warriors, Boston continues to disappoint in general. They have now just a 3.5-game lead on the Nets for the fifth and one of these two clubs seems hungry enough to make a late season run. The game is at TD Garden in Boston. Let’s get into it.
Where To Follow The Game
YES and WFAN at 7:30 pm, ET.
Caris LeVert (foot) Allen Crabbe (knee), Dzanan Musa (shoulder), Jared Dudley (hamstring) and Spencer Dinwiddie (thumb) are all out. We’re gonna miss you Spence. Get well soon. It doesn’t end there. Two other Nets — Joe Harris (right hip soreness) and Treveon Graham (sore lower back) — are questionable, meaning unlikely, to suit up: . If they’re out, the Nets would be down six players.
Jabari Bird (scandal) is the only Celtic out.
Theo Pinson is the next man up, right? Obviously Shabazz Napier is going to see some minutes and opportunities in the next month while Dinwiddie is out, but Napier was already part of the rotation, for the most part. Pinson has spent most of the season on Long Island’s roster presumably learning how to shoot and play defense and facilitate offense because of course he did because of course the Nets taught him how to be a real NBA player in like, three months. The system is real guys. Players come in, the Nets do their thing, and they leave (or stay, preferably stay) productive professional basketball players. Pinson is no exception.
Theo, along with Ed Davis and the aforementioned Napier, led the Nets bench unit to a solid all-around performance during which Davis had 17 points and 16 rebounds, Napier scored 18 points despite shooting terribly, and Pinson finished with 19 points, eight boards, two assists and two steals. Much has been made of D’Angelo Russell’s hot month, but if the Nets want to keep winning games in Dinwiddie’s absence, the bench unit must stay strong. So far, so good.
The Celtics, who also boast a deep roster and strong bench, play a similar sort of relentless game plan. They take a ton of threes, play a solid defensive scheme, and have the star to finish it all off at the end. The Nets beat the Celtics last time out, largely due to a beautiful DLo performance and a classic “Rodi-hits-some-threes-and-plays-hard-and-has-19-points =and-swings-the-game” outing. In order to beat a deep team guys like Kurucs and Pinson and Davis have to hit some shots and the way it’s been goin’ lately that doesn’t seem too crazy.
Graham will be missed. After a rough start to his season, both injury-wise and stats-wise, Graham is averaging 9.0 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent from three over his last five games. He’s not Tim Duncan, but he’s filling in nicely as the starting power forward who can stretch the floor for Kenny’s offense, something Jared Dudley did (and will again) and RHJ cannot do yet.
The Celtics wings are always an issue for the Nets, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are kind of a dynamic duo with one of them (Tatum) bringing more offense-oriented and the other (Brown) bring a super active switchy defender. Brown can score, he’s putting up 17 points per 36 minutes, but when Jayson Tatum wants to create his own shot, he kind of just does it. His combination of size, strength, athleticism, and ball-handling ability is rare, and it makes him a tough defensive assignment. Kurucs and RHJ are decently sized to match up with Tatum, but even in the win against Boston earlier this month, the kid still put up 34 points.
If the Nets do win, they will be 20-5 over the last 25 games, which would match their best 25-game stretch in franchise history — done twice previously: in 2003-2004 and 1982-83. And it would match the Nets win total from last season … 28.
Perhaps most importantly, a win would put Brooklyn within three games of Boston in the playoff race.
Player To Watch
The Celtics should probably trade Terry Rozier before it’s too late. He’s definitely got some talent, but this season Scary Terry has been pretty much terrifying for Boston fans every time he chucks up another shot. He’s shooting 37 percent from the field and 35 percent from three and contributes some defense that doesn’t exactly make up for his offensive deficiencies. Plus, the Celtics already have Marcus Smart (who was out in the Nets win) to play the defensive guard position, and the more Kyrie Irving has the ball in his hands the better. Rozier is still capable of putting up a big game every once in a while, but he might be worth more to the Celtics in a trade than on the court at this point.
From The Vault
Hope everyone enjoyed their weekends! I was just in New Orleans and drove past the Smoothie King Center and thought “wow hilarious name for an NBA Arena.” So here are some vintage Chris Paul highlights because he was really great and so much fun to watch back when he played for the Hornets. He’s back tonight for Houston.
For a different perspective, head on over to the Celtics Blog, our sister site on SB Nation.