The Nets Look To Spoil St. Patrick’s Day For Isaiah-less Celtics

Brook Lopez blocks a shot by Boston Celtics center Tyler Zeller during the third quarter. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Opponent: Boston Celtics
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Location: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network, CSNE
Listen: 660 AM, 101.9 FM

The Brooklyn Nets will take another crack at winning consecutive games for the first time this season as they take on their Atlantic Division rivals, the Boston Celtics. Coming off of their 121-110 victory at Madison Square Garden last night, Brooklyn will look to carry the same quality of play over into this game against Boston.

The Nets got the best of their cross-river rivals for the second time in five days, and last night’s game was a great overall team effort for Brooklyn. All five of the Nets’ starters scored in double figures and helped spark Brooklyn’s second half comeback. After trailing by 7 at the half, the Nets exploded for 67 points in the second half, led by Brook Lopez (24 points, 6 rebounds) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (20 points, 10 rebounds). Hollis-Jefferson notched his second double-double in as many games against the Knicks this week.

The Nets’ young core has continued to flourish since the recent return of Jeremy Lin. Lin’s presence on the floor has turned the Nets’ season around and the NBA’s worst team is now 3-3 in their last six games. The Nets have won four games in the month of March, which is a massive improvement coming off their single win tally in January and February combined. Since the return of Lin, it has been all about the continuity of this team.

The Celtics currently have a playoff spot all but locked up and are competing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, and Toronto Raptors for positioning atop the Eastern Conference. The Celtics will be without their point guard and main playmaker Isaiah Thomas, who will sit this one out with a right knee bone bruise. Thomas is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, averaging 29.2 points and 6 assists per contest, so the Nets will look to execute against one of the league’s best teams without one of the league’s best players.

Al Horford, their big offseason acquisition, will be in the lineup, however. Horford is coming off of an impressive 20 point, 9 rebound, and 8 assist performance in Wednesday’s home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Of course, the matchup between Horford and Lopez will be something to keep an eye on tonight — the winner of this one may tip the scales.

The Nets have fallen to these Celtics twice so far this year and will look to avoid the hat trick at Barclays Center tonight. Following an opening night thriller in Boston which nearly saw the Nets erase a double-digit fourth quarter deficit and a Thanksgiving Eve blowout, the Nets will look to come out on the winning end this time.

Kenny Atkinson is determined to finish the season strong and their new-found success in the month of March would ascend to a new high with a win tonight:

“We’re really on an upswing and want to finish the season strong, for ourselves, for the Nets fans that have been very patient with us, and to give us good momentum going into the offseason.”

Three Things to Watch for in Nets-Celtics:

1. The L Train

The group of Lin, Lopez, and LeVert have propelled the Nets forward recently and have played quality minutes when on the floor together. LeVert is coming off three straight double-figure scoring games, a career record thus far. As the Nets look to groom LeVert into a star in this league, giving him meaningful minutes alongside Lin and Lopez will certainly be a big help.

2. Absence of Isaiah Thomas

Without Thomas, keep an eye out for who emerges as a playmaker for the Celtics. Perhaps Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, or Avery Bradley, who have helped to round out a very balanced roster for the Celtics — the trio is scoring 13.3, 10.2, and 16.9 points per game respectively. Additionally, the recent play of Jaylen Brown, the Celtics’ rookie selected with the Nets’ conveyed pick last year, has come on strong to provide plenty of energy off the bench.

3. Luck of the Irish

The Celtics own a 22-12 all-time record on St. Patrick’s Day, having lost just once on their home court in 1968. The Nets fell in double overtime to the Celtics on St. Patrick’s Day in 1996, but the visitors are coming off of two consecutive road losses in 2012 and 2014 to the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. The Nets will hope for some luck of their own and extend the Celtics’ St. Patrick’s Day losing streak to three games.