This trip won’t be as emotional for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but for them and the Brooklyn Nets, it’s more important. Tonight, the Boston Celtics host a streaking Nets team that is looking to stay over .500, and push the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division title. Brooklyn has been playing tremendous defensive basketball as of late, while the Celtics have seemed sluggish and uninterested in competing.
Garnett will be sitting out this second return due to back spasms, so he may have another opportunity to let the emotions sink in during this return. Pierce will have to be all business, as the Nets can use this win in Boston tonight. Pierce has been an exceptional half-court leader for the Nets offense, while the likes of Shaun Livington and Deron Williams try and push the pace for this older team. They shouldn’t be able to out run the youthful Celts, but they will pick their spots.
And that is what the C’s and Rajon Rondo should look to do against the Nets. Livingston’s length will shorten the court if he can get set on defense, so the Celts must be ready to run. In addition, the bench must be ready for a war. Andray Blatche and Andrei Kiriklenko have been menacing opposing team’s second units with their size and skill. Most teams don’t have scorers on their bench like the Nets do, so the C’s must play tight defense during those eight minute stints.
Brad Stevens can’t be happy with how his team has looked at home this past week. They are not playing as inspired as they were earlier in the season, and aren’t able to avoid blowouts losses like they were in January and February. I think they keep this one close, but the Nets pull away in the end. Either way, it will be nice to watch Pierce get another shot in the playoffs, hopefully against the Miami Heat. That would make for one last, great Pierce moment if they can knock out LeBron James and the defending champs.
Prediction: Nets 94, Celtics 87