Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett
Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets will play their first nationally televised when they host the Boston Celtics at 8 pm on TNT. The Nets were never on national television when they played in Newark and this will give many people around the country a chance to see their revamped roster for the first time. Both teams enter the game on 3-game win streaks. Brooklyn has defeated Orlando twice and Cleveland once on the streak. Boston has defeated Milwaukee, Chicago, and Utah.
The Celtics (5-3) have had an up-and-down year so far. They have had some bad losses, but at 5-3 they can’t be too upset. Boston has played a lot of close games so far this year, with 6 of their 8 games decided by 6 points or less. Their best player has been Paul Pierce, who is averaging close to 20 ppg.
In last night’s victory over Utah, Rajon Rondo twisted his ankle and he may not play in this game. That is a huge loss for Boston, who really needs Rondo to guard Deron Williams. He has also played very well in the early season.
Brooklyn (4-2) has been playing better recently. After a 1-2, the Nets have won 3 in a row over very bad opponents. In their one game against a difficult opponent, the Nets were blown out by 30 against Miami. This will be their second big test against a good team and it will be interesting to see how they respond on the national stage.
Injuries: For Brooklyn, Gerald Wallace is likely out for this game. Yesterday, Avery Johnson said he was 50/50, but he has said today that he is out. Marshon Brooks is likely to play, but isn’t 100% sure yet. For Boston, Avery Bradley has not played yet this season and will miss this game. Rajon Rondo twisted his ankle last night and is questionable for the game. We will know more information on Rondo this afternoon.
Deron Williams vs. Jason Terry/Rajon Rondo. Advantage: Williams
I don’t think Rondo will play tonight, and if he doesn’t, Deron Williams definitely has the advantage. Jason Terry has had a great career, but his defense will just not be able to stop Deron Williams. Deron had his best game of the season two nights ago against Cleveland’s terrible defense and I expect him to have another big game tonight if Rondo doesn’t play. Offensively, Jason Terry is a good scorer, but he is not a great passer and he is already 35 years old. Don’t expect him to be able to keep up with Deron on defense.
Joe Johnson vs. Courtney Lee. Advantage: Johnson
Both of these players have had disappointing starts to the season. Lee is averaging under 5 ppg with 24 mpg off the bench so far, but he will probably start if Rondo doesn’t play. To make things worse, he is only shooting about 15% from 3, which is way down from his 40% last season. Johnson had his first good game as a Net on Wednesday when he scored 25 points against Cleveland. He may have found his shooting stroke and hopefully he will get on a roll soon.
Keith Bogans vs. Paul Pierce. Advantage: Pierce
Obviously, Paul Pierce is favored in this matchup. He will probably switch onto Joe Johnson at times in this game to take pressure of of Courtney Lee. Pierce has averaged 19 ppg, 7 rpg, and 4 apg so far this season, great numbers for a 35-year old. Bogans has started since the Gerald Wallace injury, but he hasn’t played much. C.J. Watson has replaced him early in the first quarter and Bogans has never played meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter.
Kris Humphries vs. Brandon Bass. Advantage: Humphries
Kris Humphries has had a little bit of a slow start to the season, but he is still an excellent rebounder, and a much better rebounder than Bass. Bass prefers taking jump shots, and he can make these. Humphries gets his points around the basket. I like this matchup for Humphries. He usually does better against players who don’t shoot 3’s, and Bass does not shoot 3’s.
Brook Lopez vs. Kevin Garnett. Advantage: Garnett
Lopez’s defense this year has been awful and expect Garnett to take advantage of him. Garnett is a much better offensive player than Anderson Varejao, who scored 35 points against Lopez on Wednesday. He should also be able to tame Lopez on the boards. Lopez should be able to score at least 15 points, but Garnett will still have a better game.
Prediction: Nets 106, Celtics 102
If the Celtics don’t have Rondo in this game, they will suffer. They need him for his defense more than anything else, and both Deron Williams and Joe Johnson might have great games. Garnett will do all he can to keep Boston in the game, and it will be close, but Brooklyn will win the first Nets game on national television.