The Boston Celtics (13-4, second in the East) bested the rival Brooklyn Nets (9-9, seventh in East) in Boston on Thanksgiving Eve, winning by a final score of 121-110. Kemba Walker was terrific, scoring 39 points in the game, while former Celtic Kyrie Irving missed the game with a shoulder injury. Now the two Atlantic Division foes will battle it out in Brooklyn on Black Friday, with Irving set to miss the game once again, his eighth in a row.
Here is a preview for Friday’s matchup between the Celtics and Nets, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
We’ll start with the Celtics, who come in as winners of two in a row. Boston has only been average this year in terms of scoring the basketball, ranking 15th in the NBA with 110.8 points per game. They are just 24th in team field-goal percentage and 21st in three-point percentage but are top 10 in free-throw percentage at 80.6 percent.
The Celtics are elite defensively, tied for the fifth-fewest points allowed per game at 104.1. They are also third in steals per game with 8.9 with the fourth-best defensive rating in the league (103.5). Their defense, mixed with their league-low turnover rate on offense, allows the Celtics to still hang in games even when the shots aren’t falling.
The Nets play at a much faster pace than the Celtics, and as a result, have a couple more points to show for it. Brooklyn is 11th in the NBA in points per game with 112.6. The Nets’ shooting percentages are a little better as well, as they come in at 19th in field-goal percentage and 21st in three-point percentage. However, Brooklyn has been one of the poorer free throw shooting teams around, ranking 24th at 73.7 percent.
The biggest mismatch between these clubs is on defense, where the Nets have allowed 114.3 points per game, the 10th most in the league. Brooklyn is also 22nd in steals per game with 6.9 and 18th in defensive rating. But other than that, these teams aren’t as big of a mismatch as their records would indicate, especially given their proximity in rebounding, assists, and three-pointers made.
Who To Watch
Walker put on a show with 39 points, going 6-for-10 from beyond the arc against Brooklyn on Wednesday. The long-time Charlotte Hornet has flourished in his first season in Boston, averaging 22.3 points per game with over 4.5 rebounds and assists. We’ll see if Walker can put together a similar performance Friday night on the road.
One of Walker’s teammates is also having a great season for the Celtics. Third-year forward Jayson Tatum has rebounded nicely from last year’s “sophomore slump,” averaging just over 20 points and seven rebounds per game. Between Tatum and Walker, the Celtics have a nice duo of stars capable of scoring, with plenty of complementary pieces around them.
Irving’s injury has impacted Brooklyn greatly, as the All-Star point guard was averaging a career high in scoring. But in his absence, Spencer Dinwiddie has taken over as a guy capable of 20-plus a night. Dinwiddie is averaging 19.6 points per game and 5.7 assists this season, playing in all 18 games. But since entering the starting lineup, Dinwiddie has averaged 22 points and 6.5 assists to lead the team.
Another guy to watch today is Jarrett Allen. Brooklyn’s third-year center is one of the better rebounders in the NBA, averaging 10.3 boards a game. He is also scoring 11.8 points and blocking over a shot per game. After Allen scored 17 points and pulled down 14 rebounds on Wednesday against Boston, look for the Nets to get him heavily involved once again.
Odds and Pick
The Celtics got a nice win against the Nets on Wednesday and now come in as 4.5-point favorites on the road. I think this game should be fairly close, even with Irving set to miss once again. I like Dinwiddie to shoot better from the field than he did on Wednesday, for Allen to have a big game, and for the Nets to get their revenge. Give me Brooklyn +4.5 to win against the Celtics.