Nets face Celtics, look to continue momentum on New Year’s Eve

Photo courtesy YES Network

Time: 5:30 p.m. EST

Where: TD Garden

Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO

Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM

Photo courtesy YES Network

The Brooklyn Nets did not have to wait until the very end of 2017 to get a win on their five-game road trip. Friday night’s victory in Miami had quite the exclamation point — it was a 24-point blowout (!!!) for Brooklyn, and the Nets essentially put the game home by the end of the first half.

Now, in their final game of 2017, the Nets set their eyes on the Boston Celtics, who have been cruising in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics boast the best record in the East (29-10) and are 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Raptors. Boston is also on a two-game win streak after a double-digit win over the Charlotte Hornets and just slightly outlasting the Houston Rockets (with some questionable officiating).

The Nets and Celtics have met one time this season so far on November 14. Boston came out on top 109-102 in Kyrie Irving’s return to the lineup, after Irving was sidelined for one game due to a minor facial fracture. The point guard scored a game-high 25 points despite attempting a rather large amount of field goals (20). Brooklyn’s own point guard, Spencer Dinwiddie, also had an interesting game despite his poor shooting (4-of-14 from the field). “The Mayor” notched his first double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and dishing out 11 assists.

Interestingly enough, in the two teams’ first meeting, it was not a starter who finished as the Nets’ leader in scoring. Joe Harris was certainly “Joey Buckets” that night, posting 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-11 shooting from downtown.

Brooklyn has shown its ability to remain close with some of the league’s top contenders, with the game from November squandering away from the team in the final minute. Can the Nets push past the Celtics this time around, especially now that December has brought in some new faces?

Hello Caris LeVert

Caris LeVert may not have been a lottery pick for the Nets, but they sure get a whole lot from the 6-foot-6 Michigan product. He played a very important role in Brooklyn’s victory over Miami on Friday, both in scoring and playmaking. The Nets sophomore finished with 12 points and 11 assists. You heard me right: 11 assists, and that was only the second game this season he dished out at least 10 dimes. (His first double-double this year was a 21-point, 10-assist performance in Brooklyn’s win over the Thunder in Mexico City.)

Can your point-forward do this? (Also, can your favorite team’s commentator smoothly toss “Skywalker” into a broadcast?)

Exciting rookies

A lot of eyes have been on Jayson Tatum this season, as the rookie continues to impress for the Celtics. The 19-year-old ranks sixth among rookies in points (14.3) and rebounds per game (5.5). In the constant Rookie of the Year race discussion on Twitter, he has gotten some recognition for being a more efficient shooter than the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons.

Also, Tatum’s got handles:

Meanwhile, Jarrett Allen has been racking up a reputation for his slam dunks and occasional assertive blocks. (He ranks eighth among rookies with 0.7 blocks per game, and he can thank one of LeVert’s 11 assists for this dunk from Friday night. Also, LeVert to Allen connections are pretty much becoming a staple to Brooklyn’s offense) The Nets rookie has still been playing in the 20-minute range, but he has had a couple of impressive performances recently. Eerily enough, he had the same points and rebounds stat line on both nights (December 26 against the Spurs and December 29 against the Heat): 12 points and 9 rebounds, with just one more made field goal/field goal attempt for the former.

The point guards

Alright, so there is no argument over Kyrie Irving being a world-class point guard, right? Good. After all, the masked man (back in November) was a key piece to the Celtics’ win over the Nets.

Irving has missed just two games this season, and his contributions to Boston have been nothing short of remarkable. Discounting his “flat Earth” belief, there is the fact that he has scored at least 20 points in 10 consecutive games, and he is the team’s top scorer with 24.7 points per game. He also trails Al Horford in assists per game (five) and is tied with Marcus Smart in steals per game (1.2). So yes, “Uncle Drew” is critical to Boston’s success.

Spencer Dinwiddie, though not a household name, is also an important part of this injury-riddled, young Nets team. He has been dubbed “a star-level point guard” by The Step Back, and he has accumulated a wonderful fan base that has essentially started a movement to get him into the All-Star Game.

Everyone loves Spence, and why shouldn’t they? He has stepped up as the starting point guard amid Jeremy Lin’s and D’Angelo Russell’s absences, trailing only Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in scoring but leading the team in assists with 6.4 per game.

The Spensation lives on.