The Boston Celtics are starting off the new year with what, on paper, appears to be a little bit of a gift. The Brooklyn Nets are terrible, and the Celtics get a nice, comfortable home-and-home with them to start 2016. Boston has had a couple of days off.. they have a nice easy afternoon game that’s not too early, and a day-and-a-half off to face the Nets again just a short flight down to New York.
But let’s not make the mistake of forgetting our recent history. And also, let’s not look past the fact that the Nets are playing a lot better lately. Yes, they’re 1-3 in their last 4 games, but that includes an OT loss to Dallas and what probably should have been a win in Orlando had the game been officiated correctly. We’re looking at a Nets team that very easily could be 3-1 in its last 4 games, and coming into Boston with some added incentive to win and destroy the value of the pick they owe the Celtics.
So with that in mind, let’s look at how to beat the Brooklyn Nets.
1: Take this game seriously
I’ll start with the most blatantly obvious thing just to get it out of the way. The Celtics are coming off a loss to the god-awful Lakers and are facing a Brooklyn team that has beaten them once already this season.
So let me just say here and henceforth… never should the words “just show up” leave your lips when discussing the Celtics strategy for winning a game. This team is NOT good enough to do that. Their strength lies in their united effort to wear down opponents and force them into mistakes. The minute that collective effort wanes, the entire thing falls apart. Do we all understand that now?
Isaiah Thomas is having an All Star season, but he can’t carry this team by himself.
Jae Crowder is having his best season as a pro. He is having a breakout offensive year. But he can’t do it by himself.
Avery Bradley is having his best two-ways season yet. But he can’t do it by himself.
No one can do it alone. There’s no middle ground with the Celtics. They either work together and win convincingly as a cohesive, fluid unit, or they slack and watch the entire thing bleakly crumble to the ground. This is who these Celtics are.
Now that that’s out of the way….
2: Get it to Avery Bradley
I’ll let Marc D’Amico kick this one off…
Bradley enters today’s game with an average of 24.0 points per game against the Nets this season. During his first two matchups with Brooklyn, he canned 57.6 percent of his field goals and 53.3 percent of his shots from long distance.
This may be the perfect timing for Bradley to face off against Brooklyn again. He hasn’t shot better than 50.0 percent from the field since Dec. 12, a span of eight games. He also has shot better than 30.0 percent from 3-point range during only one of those games.
Bradley shoots about 62% against Jarrett Jack… so if that’s a matchup that materializes, got to it as much as possible.
Side note: Get it to Bradley quickly. He’s made 71 field goals in first quarter this season on 49% shooting. He’s also made 26 3’s in first quarters… by far the most of each in any quarter and easily the best shooting percentages. Bradley comes out of the gates hot… so ride it early.
Side note 2: Bradley is shooting 33% in 2nd quarters this season. How weird is that?
3: Pick up the pace
The Nets are a slow team and their best player is mister poetry in slow motion Brook Lopez. Seriously… it takes Lopez 15 seconds of the shot clock to actually get an individual move off, but dammit if it’s not effective most of the time.
So let’s not fall into that slow-down trap of theirs. Get the ball and run. There’s no excuse for not running today. The game is at home after a couple of days off and a sour taste still lingering after the Lakers loss. This is the game to get out there and push the tempo and put up 115 points.
The Nets are 5-2 when they hold their opponent under 100 points.. and one of those losses was a 2 points loss to Cleveland. The Celtics had better not settle for crappy shots because if they let a team tied for the 6th-worst defensive rating hold them under 100 points, this is going to be a real embarrassment.
4: Make Jarrett Jack a scorer
Jarrett Jack is not a good point guard, but he’s an even worse shooter. His assist percentage is actually at a career-high 34.4, but his true shooting percentage (which takes into account 2’s, 3’s and free throws) is near a career-low. He’s shooting about 31% from 3 and a career-worst 43% from 2.
Amazingly, he’s taking 11.4 shots per game… near a career-high.
So you want to shoot, Jarrett? Go for it. Shoot all you want. Of course, you contest him as best you can, but if there’s help or double teams to be given, it’s Jack’s guy who should be giving it. If Jack gets hot and beats you, then I guess you have to live with it because the chances are pretty slim.
Again, the Nets have a terrible record and they’ll continue to be one of the league’s worst teams, but taking them lightly will be a very easy way to hang another embarrassing L on the schedule. Let’s execute this plan and avoid that.