Nets head up to Boston as 7.5 point underdogs on the road
The Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics will go head-to-head for the third time this year later tonight with the season series tied 1-1. Both games of the series were played back in late November, so these teams look very different since the last time they faced-off. The Celtics won the first matchup 121-110 at home thanks in part to a 39 point outing from Kemba Walker who finished the game over 50% from the field. These squads faced off just two days later in Brooklyn, where the Nets emerged victorious by a final score of 112-107. Five players had double-digit scoring outputs for the Nets, including Spencer Dinwiddie who put up 32 points in the game on a night where he went 10-19 shooting from the field. Tonight’s game will break the series tie and go a long way in determining who moves up the playoff rankings in the Eastern Conference.
Even though both these teams are in the hunt for the postseason, they are trending in opposite directions right now. At 41-18, the Celtics are currently the number three seed in the Eastern conference and look to be playing their best basketball of the season at the moment. Boston is 14-4 over their last 18 games and have secured wins over teams like the Magic, the Jazz, the Lakers, and the Clippers. There was even a recent stretch where the Celtics won seven games in a row! They did fall in their most recent matchup though, a 111-110 loss at home to the Houston Rockets. However, the Cs still look like one of the best team in the East right now, and a lot of their success can be attributed to the recent emergence of Jayson Tatum as one of the best players in the league. The former number three overall pick leads Boston in scoring with 23.5 points per game. However, the 21 year old Power Forward has been even better during this recent stretch, averaging 31.5 points on over 50% shooting in his last ten games. Despite this remarkable play, Tatum is not expected to play tonight due to an illness according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. For most teams, this would derail any positive momentum, but the Celtics are incredibly well built from top-to-bottom, so I feel confident that they will be able to still put up a good fight despite Tatum’s absence. The Celtics have managed to win a lot of games using a variety of different, highly-skilled players. Five players on the Celtics average double-digit scoring figures, and three of those players are averaging over 20 points per game this season! Kemba Walker is expected to return to action tonight, but his minutes will be limited. He has averaged 28 points in the two games he has played against Brooklyn this season, so any minutes he will play against the Nets will be valuable. Furthermore, Walker is second on the team in points this season with 21.8 per game. Jaylen Brown has been playing very well for Boston this year also. The former number three overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has averaged 20.6 points in his last ten games. I am sure the Celtics will manage to overcome the absence of Jayson Tatum as they go up against one of the weaker teams in the hunt for the NBA playoffs.
Things have not been pretty for the Nets as of late. Brooklyn is 1-5 in their last six games and currently finds themselves in the middle of a four-game losing streak. This streak features losses to the Magic and Heat as well as losses to the bottom-feeders like the Atlanta Hawks and the Washington Wizards. The defense for Brooklyn hasn’t been terrible as they have managed to limit their opponents to just 113.3 points per game during this recent stretch. However, the Nets’ offense has been subpar over these last six games, averaging just 111.5 points per contest. Furthermore, the Nets have not been finishing games. Four of Brooklyn’s five recent losses have come by just single-digits. This could spell disaster as the Nets go up against a Celtics team that knows how to win close games.
The Nets’ offense has left something to be desired ever since losing Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile, the Celtics enter tonight’s game with the second best scoring defense in the NBA as well as the eighth ranked scoring offense. As for the Nets, they are 18th in scoring and 20th in scoring offense. Boston just has too many pieces for the Nets to keep up with. The Celtics will miss Jayson Tatum, which is why I think this game will end up being close, but I still have faith in the Celtics to take care of Brooklyn at home. The Nets cover the 7.5 point spread, but the Celtics end up winning tonight’s game.