Nets look to match last year’s win total against Boston

AP Photo/Reinhold Matay
(AP Photo/Reinhold Matay) by Ben Nadeau Resolution: Keep improving, keep doin' you After the aforementioned injuries to Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez,  Isaiah Whitehead was hurled into the fire against the likes of Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Damian Lillard -- and, hey, for a second round rookie, he's covered ground pretty quickly.  At the beginning of the season, Whitehead was prone to silly turnovers -- most often by jumping without an endgame in mind -- and struggled to tap into his range. With almost half a season under his belt now, Whitehead has proven to be a capable game manager and, if he starts hitting the three-pointer more consistently, can be a regular contributor to the crippled side. Of course, his assist numbers aren't particularly great, although that's fair given Atkinson's rapid-ball movement offense, but he's saved the Nets from having a historically poor season in all likelihood. In 2017, Whitehead should look to continue working that #BrooklynGrit moxie, get to the free throw line more, and find that three-point shooting range that made him a collegiate star at Seton Hall. It's an incredibly early diagnosis on Whitehead, but Atkinson must be pleased with the rookie's play and his quickly matured confidence way ahead of schedule.
(AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

Opponent: Boston Celtics
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Location: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Watch: YES Network
Listen: WCBS 880 AM

With two games remaining on the schedule, the Brooklyn Nets have a chance to match, or even surpass, last year’s modest win total of 21. While last year’s team yielded the third-worst record, and subsequently the third pick in the draft, this year’s team has already clinched the league’s worst record. Unfortunately, both of those picks are the property of the Boston Celtics — that sobering reality makes every Nets-Celtics game feel like a must-win.

While the records are similar, this year’s team definitely scores a higher score on the eye test. Brooklyn has lost a handful of games in the final minutes of games, and even more in overtime, making their league worst record a bit misleading. They have, sadly, lost six games by one possession which can be attributed to growing pains mixed with bad luck. Fortunately, the team can also point to three wins by one possession on the year, including their last outing, a home win against the Chicago Bulls in the season finale at the Barclays Center.

The Nets and Celtics have battled a couple of close games this season, with Boston having swept the Nets so far. In the season’s very first game, Justin Hamilton was the unsung hero who’s 18 points kept the Nets afloat. While Brooklyn didn’t win, hope sprung eternal for the chippy Nets squad. By the time the second game came around, the Nets were mired in their first losing streak of the season. The Celtics handed Brooklyn their fifth loss of what would become a seven-game losing streak.

The last meeting between the two was an entertaining battle on St. Patrick’s Day. Brooklyn held the lead for much of the game, but the late game execution of Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder led to a late win. Brook Lopez was unable to hit the game-tying three-pointer, dropping the season series to 3-0 in favor of the Celtics.

Can the Nets get a major moral victory in the penultimate game of the season?

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Celtics:

1. The IT factor

Isaiah Thomas has completely ascended since being the third point guard in Phoenix. IT4 has been the driving force for the Celtics’ offense this season and is basically is the entire team in the fourth quarter. Being one of the league leaders in scoring is an impressive feat, but the way the undersized Thomas has been able to commandeer this Boston squad to one of the top spots in the East has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Thomas should continue to be his dominant self with the Nets in town.

2. Options, Options, Options

Quincy Acy, Spencer Dinwiddie, Sean Kilpatrick, K.J. McDaniels, Archie Goodwin, and Joe Harris all have options for next year. These final two games continue to serve as an audition for everyone but Harris, who remains out with a shoulder injury, to make their case for why they should remain a Net. Goodwin, McDaniels, and Acy could all be playing for a spot on next year’s team.

3. Do It For The Fans

What a sweet victory this would be for Nets fans. We all know Boston will only get better after adding two picks from Brooklyn over the next two seasons, with this upcoming selection guaranteed to be in the top three. We also know that the Nets will continue their uphill climb to become a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Defeating the Celtics on their own turf would push their rivals the second seed in the conference, a small victory in a season full of them.