Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics Preview
The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics will play their first of four divisional games on Wednesday, in what was suppose to be Kyrie Irving’s return to Boston after bolting over the summer to team up with Kevin Durant in New York. Irving is nursing a shoulder injury that has had him sidelined since Nov. 14. Irving won’t travel with the team, so any plans the Boston faithful had to rain boos down on the ex-Celtic who spent most of last season sulking his way through the year and alienating himself from the fanbase is going to have to wait. That’s fine because for Celtics fans the most important news is whether or not Kemba Walker will get a chance to go after his scary neck injury against the Denver Nuggets on Friday.
With or without Irving the Nets have a guard in Spencer Dinwiddie who is no stranger to stepping in as a starter and producing at a high level. The game won’t have the same energy without Irving suited up for the opponent, but it’s an important game for the Celtics who are just happy to be home after their 1-3 West Coast trip.
Time: 7 PM ET
Arena: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Nets: Kevin Durant (O), Kyrie Irving (O), DeAndre Jordan (Q), Caris LeVert (O)
Celtics: Gordon Hayward (O), Daniel Theis (Q), Kemba Walker (Q)
Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineup
The Nets (9-8) needed every second of their previous game against the Cleveland Cavaliers to pull out the 108-106 win on Monday. Dinwiddie drilled a jumper with 1.9 seconds left in the game that gave the Nets, who really needed it, their fourth straight victory. Brooklyn has been without Irving for the past six games and the Nets are 5-1 in the games their star guard has missed. Dinwiddie–who is averaging 24.6 points per game during Irving’s absence–has been the key to the Net’s turnaround.
Along with the game-winner, Dinwiddie finished with 23 points, nine assists, and three blocks. Jarrett Allen added 22 points on 9-for-10 shooting and Joe Harris chipped in 19 points, six rebounds, and two steals.
The Nets have been an interesting team. Their start was shaky, to say the least. Despite Irving averaging career-high in almost all of his counting stats, Brooklyn was not winning games. Before Irving was sidelined the Nets had a record of 4-7. Not great. Irving was averaging 28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds 7.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game before his shoulder injury. His shooting numbers, not as impressive, but not terrible: 44 percent from the field and 34.1 percent on 3s.
It’s unfair to place the blame strictly on Irving, but the Nets are reverting back to the free-flowing offensive style that worked so well for them last year. Irving, as amazing as he is with the ball in his hand, tends to be a bit of a ball stopper. In the first 11 games of the season, the Nets averaged 372.3 touches per game (the third-fewest of any team). During the six games Irving has missed, they are averaging 402.8 touches per game (the eighth-fewest). Still not great, but the ball movement is trending more in the direction of the 2018-19 Nets, who averaged 436.3 touches per game. Looking at passes per game, we see the same effect. Brooklyn averaged just 246.5 passes per game through the first 11 games, but are making 281.2 passes per game in the six games without Irving.
The ideal scenario for the Nets is to find that balance in which Irving has the freedom to play his brand of basketball while also making sure the ball finds its’ way around to the other players on the court who’ve shown an ability to produce at a high level.
Boston Celtics Starting Lineup
Boston (12-4) is preparing for its second straight home game after a four-game west coast trip. Their most recent outing, a 103-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday was a good way to start their homestand. The win must have felt good after the Celtics lost to the Kings on Nov. 17. A game in which Marcus Smart’s game-winning shot attempt rolled off the rim as time expired. This time, playing in the TD Garden, Smart got the friendly roll when he took and made two clutch baskets with 31 seconds to go in the game. The first of which bounced on the front of the rim then fell in.
“When I shot it, I saw it on the front of the rim again and I was like: ‘Not again. I’ve got to get it this time.’ It felt good to see the ball finally go in. It’s just ironic it happened to bounce like that again this time,” Smart said.
Jaylen Brown led the way in the scoring column, he scored 24 points, Jayson Tatum added 20 and Smart scored 17 points and had seven assists.
The Celtics have been dealing with a lot of injuries to key guys but they currently hold the second seed in the Eastern Conference and are expecting the return of Walker and Hayward soon. There’s a good chance Walker is available for tonight’s matchup and Hayward should be ready to go by Christmas. Call it bad luck, but the roster Danny Ainge has constructed is the type to scoff at the idea of making excuses for a loss. Boston is no. 11 in the league in offensive efficiency, which is a mark I see them improving in as they hopefully start to get some of their starters back. Their defense has held strong. They have the no. 5 defense in the league, in large part because of how good they are blitzing and recovering on mismatches–oh, and also because of Smart.
Smart is having a Defensive Player of the Year type of season that goes beyond what you can see in a regular boxscore. At 6-foot-3, Smart has the height of a point guard/shooting guard. The height doesn’t matter because Smart guards players bigger than him on a consistent basis, and shuts them down. He’s dubbed himself a “Stretch 6” which has a nice ring to it and truly encompasses how unique of a player Smart is. His defensive numbers are exceptional. He averages 1.6 steals per game and has a steal percentage of 26.6 percent. For players, who’ve played in a minimum of 10 games and average at least 25 minutes per game Smart is 14th in defensive win shares with 0.157, per NBA advanced stats. As is the case on most nights for the Celtics, Smart and his defense will be key.
Key Player Matchups
Kemba Walker vs. Spencer Dinwiddie
Walker is listed as probable and if he’s good to go this will be a great matchup. Smart could see some minutes guarding Dinwiddie who has been playing well this season. Both Walker and Dinwiddie are scoring guards–Walker is averaging 21 points per game while Dinwiddie is scoring 19.8 per game–who excel in the pick-and-roll. Even if Walker is cleared to play there’s a good chance he’ll be on a minute restriction. Whatever the Celtics can get from their leader will help against a team that has been clicking as of late.
Jaylen Brown vs. Joe Harris
Brown will probably start the game matched up with Harris. Harris moves very well off the ball and is one of the league’s most prolific deep ball threats. He shoots 43.3 percent on his 3s on 6.1 attempts. Brown is one of the better defenders at his position and is just scratching the surface on what he can do. He’s taken another leap this season–averaging 19.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game–while playing strong defense and drilling his 3-pointers at a respectable 36.5 percent rate. Boston deploys several wings, from Tatum to Smart to Semi Ojeleye who can help on switches to keep Harris from breaking free for clean looks.
Since Irving has been out Dinwiddie’s value has skyrocketed. He’s a high usage guard on a team devoid of a playmaking perimeter players at the moment. He comes into this matchup as the priciest pickup at $8.3k on FanDuel. His projected fantasy points are set at 35.5. His teammate, Harris is available for significantly less–although he’s just a specialist–at $5k. He’s projected to post 23.3 fantasy points.
For the Celtics, your two best pickups on any given night are usually the wing tandem of Tatum and Brown. They provide a steady dose of points, rebounds, and 3-pointers. Brown is going for $6.8k with projected fantasy points set at 33.7 and Tatum is available for a higher salary of $7.7k with his projected points set at 36.2.
Bet on Matchup
If you’re in Pennsylvania, you can bet on this matchup. Sports betting is legal in PA. Our top rated online sportsbook bonus offers can be found in our articles: Fanduel Sportsbook promo code, DraftKings Sportsbook promo code & Pointsbet promo code.