Boston at New Jersey
Boston: 105.1 points/100 possessions (13th)
New Jersey: 100.1 points/100 possessions (27th)
Boston: 97.7 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)*
New Jersey: 106.4 points allowed/100 possessions (20th)
*Not updated to include yesterday’s record-breaking effort
Probable Nets’ starters: Deron Williams, Sash Vujacic, Anthony Morrow, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez
View from opposing bench: Nets are Scorching
The Celtics look for the 4-game season sweep tonight against a New Jersey team that has been playing well of late. And when I say “playing well,” I mean they are riding a 4-game winning streak against the Clippers, Warriors and Raptors (twice). The Nets are 6 games out of 8th place in the Eastern Conference. So while they are not yet mathematically eliminated from the postseason, most Nets’ fans have already turned their attention towards trying to sign Zach Randolph or David West this summer… Also, Deron Williams should be back in the lineup tonight after missing the team’s last two games to be present for the birth of his son.
WHAT THE NETS DO WELL:
Dirty work defensively. This is a bit of stretch, but the Nets aren’t half-bad when it comes to rebounding and blocking shots. They rank 8th in Defensive Rebound Rate, and 13th in Block Rate. So we’ll see if either is a factor tonight. Rebounding could be a slight concern for the Celtics. Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries have been playing out of their minds lately, and the C’s have had issues in certain games when it comes to pulling down boards.
WHAT THE NETS DO POORLY:
Score the basketball. New Jersey has struggled in most statistical categories this season. The Nets’ eFG% is 27th in the NBA at 47.4%. In particular, New Jersey has had problems scoring inside. They rank 28th in the league with a 59.5% shooting percentage on shots at the rim (by contrast, the Celtics are No. 1 at 68.7%). They also only record about 39 points in the paint per game (22nd). However, it’s likely that Williams’ presence will improve these numbers, as defenses have been sending double-teams at an overwhelmed Lopez all season long. More on B-Lo in a second.
WHICH PLAYERS MAKE ME WORRY:
Deron Williams: He scared me on the Jazz. Now he scares me on the Nets. Don’t see this changing for the rest of his career…Averaging 15.8 points and 15.2 assists per game with New Jersey.
Kris Humphries: Humphries has been incredibly inconsistent all season. But in the last 4 games he’s averaging 17 ppg, 17.3 rebounds, and is shooting 63% from the field. Hey, he is about to be a free agent and is looking for that next contract. Put up a 20-10 against Kevin Garnett tonight and that’s good for at least an extra $500,000, right?
WHICH PLAYER DOESN’T MAKE ME WORRY:
Brook Lopez: Clearly, Lopez is one of the big winners in the Williams trade. He definitely wasn’t ready to carry a team offensively, which he was forced to do for the last 5 months. He’s a very good player, but not great. I think he has “3rd-best-player-on-a-potential-championship-team” written all over him. But the reason he doesn’t make me nervous is that he plays below his potential on too many occasions. Takes too many shots to get his 20 points (48% eFG rate). Doesn’t rebound as well as he should (averaging only 6 rebounds per game) for a 7-footer. Kinda reminds me of Chris Bosh in those ways. However, he has been playing well lately (27-9 in his last 5 games) and you just have to hope that he doesn’t break out for a monster game like he does every once in a while.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM BOSTON TONIGHT:
Nenad Krstic continue to impress. He is averaging almost 16 ppg and 13 rebounds over the last 3 games, albeit against relatively inferior opponents. While I certainly don’t put these stats in the “fluke” category, it would be unfair to expect this type of production from Krstic once the playoffs roll around. With 17 games to go in the regular season, the main focus for the Celtics is hanging on to that No. 1 seed. But in terms of individual players, Krstic is the guy we all want to see more of. We all know what to expect from the Big 4. But I want to see how much confidence Doc Rivers really has in Krstic (i.e. is he ultimately going to end up giving the big man 35 minutes per game in the playoffs?)
PREDICTION: Celtics 106, Nets 94
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