Brooklyn Nets: Key to taking down the Celtics starts with Horford

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 10: Al Horford
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 10: Al Horford /

This Tuesday at the Barclays Center marks the first meeting between the Brooklyn Nets and the red-hot Boston Celtics.

After starting 0-2, the Celtics have won 12 in a row. They look to continue their hot streak against a depleted Nets team. The recent news of D’Angelo Russell’s knee injury seems like adding insult to injury (no pun intended) especially considering the bad luck that has befallen upon this Nets roster.

Nonetheless, the Celtics aren’t taking this game lightly as well they shouldn’t. The Nets have been more than formidable against top ranked opponents, with wins against Cleveland and in Portland.

Even more bright news pertaining to the Nets faithful as the first encounter with Kyrie Irving might be delayed. Kyrie Irving is questionable for Tuesday night’s game and is likely sitting out. Regardless of Irving’s injury status, the Nets must plan to neutralize a player on the Celtics arguably even more valuable to their recent success: Al Horford.

While Boston has ranked first in defensive efficiency, the team has had a rather sluggish start offensively. They rank 18th in offensive rating. Horford has been the centerpiece of this offense and the reason for much of their success. The ball runs through him often, creating mismatches and all kinds of space on the court.

The only way to offset his impact is to set Trevor Booker loose on him. This season, the Nets have been awful defending bigs to say the least. Timofey Mozgov, Quincy Acy, and Tyler Zeller are all too slow to matchup with Horford. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson doesn’t quite have the size.

The best matchup defensively for the Nets would be the 6’8 power-forward from Clemson. For the Nets to stand a chance, Booker has to be on the court for more than 30 minutes, well above his season average of 21.9. Booker can match his build and hope to match his quickness while sticking him with that extra Brooklyn grit.

This matchup is shaping up to be an interesting one. The Nets have taken three of their last five at home. The Celtics won’t take this one for granted as the Nets look to play breaker of streaks.

Not only will this be a gritty 48-minute battle but it will be interesting to see how the Nets do. It is their first matchup the new-look Celtics. The Celtics have become the gold standard for an Eastern Conference franchise. and it will surely be compelling to see how Kenny Atkinson and his boys shape up and compare to the team that they will hopefully amount to in the coming years.