Can Nets bounce back vs. the Boston Celtics?


The Nets (14-16) came oh, so close to cashing in on their late fourth-quarter comeback Monday night, but after Joe Johnson’s game-winning shot attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer, they never sniffed victory again. After holding the Nets to a mere 47 points through the final three quarters, the Mavericks (26-10) outscored the Nets 14-6 in overtime, en route to a 96-88 victory.

The absences of Deron Williams (sore left side) and Kevin Garnett (rest) didn’t seem to hinder the Nets in a 35-point first quarter, including 18 from Brook Lopez alone. Lopez made just his second start since returning from his lower back strain, and the seven-footer would only score four more points the rest of the way.

The Nets as a team shot just 39.3 percent, including a putrid 3-for-25 behind the arc, which could have looked a lot worse if not for Johnson’s two late threes in the fourth quarter.

Lopez’s 22-point, 13-rebound effort adds to a recent surge that could be a sign that his early season funk is beginning to subside. In the past five games, Lopez has averaged 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and two blocks, shooting 59.2 percent from the field. How the recent reports of a proposed trade to the Thunder will affect him going forward is a whole different story, not to mention his probable return to the bench tonight.

Tonight, the Nets will welcome the Boston Celtics (11-21) into Barclays Center for the first time this season. The two teams split their first two games in Boston, a 121-105 Celtics win on opening night followed by a 109-107 come-from-behind Nets victory on December 26th.

The Celtics have lost three straight games and seven of nine since the Rajon Rondo trade in mid-December. Rondo dished out 14 assists and grabbed ten rebounds despite shooting only 1-for-13 against the Nets on Monday.

Jameer Nelson, who joined the Celtics in the trade that sent away Rondo, missed their game in Charlotte on Monday with a sprained right ankle. His status for tonight is uncertain. Ex-Nets guard Marcus Thornton has missed the last eleven games with a torn left calf, and is out indefinitely.

The Nets have their own point guard issues. After a strong game for Deron Williams Sunday against the Heat, scoring 18 points and dishing out 11 assists, there were rumors about a return to the starting lineup. But yet another injury has set back his progress: Williams, who sat out Monday, is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game due to continuing pain in his left side. It’s a recurring theme for Williams’ tenure with the Nets. Jarrett Jack, after a poor game in Miami, had a solid bounce-back game Monday night, dishing out ten assists and scoring 20 points, including a go-ahead jumper with 27 seconds left that capped the comeback.

A Nets win tonight would clinch at least a split of the season series with Boston for the third straight season, after losing the previous five season series.

Tip-off is at 7:30 E.S.T. in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.