Thursday night on TNT features the first intra-conference matchup between the Boston Celtics (5-3) and the Brooklyn Nets (4-2). This highly anticipated showdown will have no shortage of stars on display at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Both teams are led by superstar point guards and accompanied by an all-star caliber wing. However, the matchup between two of the best point guards in the league - Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo - may not be what you’re expecting.
Wednesday night the Boston Celtics faced the Utah jazz at home resulting in a 98-93 win. Even though the Celtics were able to win the game, they had to do it without Rajon Rondo, who left the game in the third quarter with an ankle sprain. Rondo only played 25 minutes, but still managed to rack up 10 assists. Keeping his streak of consecutive games with double-digit assists alive, Rondo has now done so in his last 32 games.
Rondo is putting on a hall-of-fame type performance with his dimes every night; it would be disappointing to see this injury put an end to his run at a record. Rondo is listed as day-to-day and will likely be a game-time decision as to whether or not he will play against the Nets.
Boston saw production from their bench on Wednesday night that they do not typically see. But with Rondo out for the final 17 minutes somebody had to step up. Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa each finished the game with 16 points off the bench in an effort that gave the Celtics their third straight win. Boston was outrebounded on the boards 33-48, but managed to pull off the win by keeping their turnovers low (9) and shooting 50% from the field, compared to Utah’s 40%.
Kevin Garnett had a team high eight rebounds and has been leading the team in rebounds averaging eight per game. Garnett is still a very good and productive player, but we can only wonder how long he can keep this up. The Celtics are badly in need of someone who can take some of the load off Garnett’s shoulders as the season goes on.
Brooklyn is on their own three-game win streak as the two teams now sit in fourth and fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The nets are coming off of their biggest win of the season from Tuesday night, when they beat Cleveland 114 to 101. Cleveland is still a young team with a lot of progress to make, but the Nets were finally able to get a big game out of Joe Johnson while Deron Williams and Brook Lopez also had very nice nights.
Joe Johnson played his most complete game as a Net logging 25 points, six assists and five rebounds. Williams had his second double-double of the year which came as a season high 26 points to go with his 10 assists. Center Brook Lopez finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
Lopez has been the x-factor for this Brooklyn team. When he is able to post big numbers it makes it that much more difficult for teams to beat the Nets. Specifically, when Lopez has been more involved in the offense Brooklyn has played better. When he scores 14 or more points the Nets have won four games without any losses. If teams are forced to emphasize how they need to defend Lopez it will open up more looks for the guards outside. Having to worry about both Lopez down low as well as Williams and Johnson on the perimeter is not something that teams are going to look forward to.
Tonight, Kevin Garnett will have the task of guarding Lopez in Brooklyn. This will be one of the better positions to pay attention to in this game. If Rondo is out then look for Deron to be very aggressive offensively. On the wing it will be interesting to see whether Paul Pierce or Joe Johnson can make a statement by having a big game.
The other New York team (Knicks) will play in San Antonio against the Spurs. Unfortunately, this game will not be nationally televised. Although I’m sure many NBA fans will be paying attention this matchup. The Knicks (5-0) and Spurs (7-1) are both number one in their respective conferences.