Tip: 7:30 PM Court: TD Garden Watch it: CSN Hear it: WEEI
Referees: James Capers, Kevin Fehr, Kane Fitzgerald
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The Celtics, playing without Rajon Rondo (sprained ankle) fell to the Nets in Brooklyn, 102-97. Paul Pierce led the C’s with 22 points and Leandro Barbosa chipped in 17 in Rondo’s place. Brook Lopez and Deron Williams had 24 each for Brooklyn.
Get it to: Rajon Rondo
Rondo is going to have to be in full attack mode for the Celtics. Deron Williams is nursing a sprained wrist, so we’ll see if that distracts him or limits him. The Nets are playing some decent team defense, so it’ll be up to Rondo and his dribble penetration to force the Nets into a few extra rotations. Don’t confuse some good defense with being a good defensive team. Apply the pressure and the cracks will be exposed.
Gotta stop: Brook Lopez
Against the Knicks and DPOY Tyson Chandler, Lopez dropped 22 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Against KG and the Celtics, he shot 11 of 14. Lost in all the boo-hooing over his max contract this summer is the fact that Lopez has always been a pretty damn good offensive player. He might still drop 20 on the C’s, but it would be really nice to see him need 20 or more shots to do it. The Nets don’t get a whole lotta shots up as it is… forcing one guy to take most of them to score his points will give some other pretty good offensive players a less of a chance to get going.
The Wild Card: Brandon Bass
He’s been a rebounding machine lately…. well… as much of a “machine” as a Celtic can get. He had 12 boards against the Magic and 6 each against San Antonio and Oklahoma City. The Celtics will need him to not only rebound, but to keep Kris Humphries off the boards as best he can. Hitting a few shots will be nice, too.
How we see it goin’ down
The Celtics led the Nets in points in the paint (46-36) and fast break points (19-5) in their first match up… and that was without Rajon Rondo. Credit Leandro Barbosa’s explosion in Rondo’s spot for that. This time, Rondo should be able to keep up the same pressure with Barbosa attacking off the bench (here’s hoping Keith Bogans doesn’t try to put another sleeper hold on him).
I like the Celtics to continue their slow but steady progression. I think a couple of days off helps them come out strong while this is the fourth game in six days for the Nets (including a tough, emotional OT win against the cross-town rival Knicks). That’ll make for some tired fourth-quarter legs on the Nets side.
I think the C’s come out strong… relax and maybe lose the lead… and then finish with a fourth quarter flurry.