Boston and New Jersey battle with playoff positioning at stake

NBA

The Boston Celtics head to Brooklyn with a 44-31 record, fifth in the Eastern Conference, a game behind the Pacers. Brooklyn is 38-37 and in a three-way fight for the bottom three playoff seeds in the conference. Boston has won two of the three meetings this season with the home team winning each time.

Both teams like to shoot the three-pointer. Boston ranks sixth in both attempts and makes, while the Nets are fifth in attempts and 16th in percentage. Boston is significantly better defensively, ranked 9th in fewest points allowed, while the Nets are 19th. The Celtics also take care of the ball better much better, making the most of their possessions, while the Nets are 25th in turnovers. The one big advantage the Nets have is on the boards, ranked 9th compared to 22nd for Boston.

The Celtics are lead by Kyrie Irving, who leads the team in scoring at 23.8 points per game and in  assists at 7.1 per game. Al Horford leads a mediocre rebounding unit at 6.7 per game, while Marcus Smart leads in steals at 1.8 per contest. Irving, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris are all three point threats, so the Nets better be prepared defensively on the perimeter. A balanced team, the Celtics have six players averaging in double digits scoring.

D'Angelo Russell leads the Nets in scoring at 20.9 points and in rebounds at 7 per game. Joe Harris could give the Celtics fits from long range, hitting 47 percent of his attempts. Ed Davis leads the team in rebounding, hauling in 8.7 in just 18 minutes per game, while Jarrett Allen averages 8.4 and leads the team in blocked shots. Spencer Dinwiddle is a good second scoring option at 17.5 points per game, while six Nets average in double digits scoring.

Both teams have much to play for, which should make for a close, highly intense contest. Boston has the better talent overall, but not by a wide margin. I give the Nets some home court edge and think they will find a way to win in a very tight game.