Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets come to town to take on Rajon Rondo and the recovering Boston Celtics on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston, MA.
Event: New Jersey Nets (11-25) vs. Boston Celtics (17-17) - NBA Regular Season, Game 35.
Date/Time: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Location: TD Garden (Capacity: 18, 624), Boston, Massachusetts.
Broadcast Info: Friday night's game between the Celtics and Nets will be televised regionally on Comcast SportsNet New England, with Mike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn and Greg Dickerson bringing you the action. The game can also be heard on the WEEI Sports Radio Network (93.7 FM/850 AM), with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell on the call.
Odds: Boston is a 6 1/2-point favorite over New Jersey on Friday night.
Celtics Roster 2011-12: Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Marquis Daniels,Keyon Dooling, Kevin Garnett, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Jermaine O'Neal, Sasha Pavlovic, Mickael Pietrus, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Greg Stiemsma,Chris Wilcox. Head Coach: Doc Rivers.
Nets Roster 2011-12: MarShon Brooks, Jordan Farmar, Sundiata Gaines, Gerald Green, Kris Humphries, Damion James, Brook Lopez, Anthony Morrow, Mehmet Okur, Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson, Deron Williams, Jordan Williams, Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams. Head Coach: Avery Johnson.
Celtics And Nets In 2011-12: Boston and New Jersey have met once this season, with the Celtics posting an 89-70 victory on Wed., Jan. 4 at TD Garden. Paul Pierce scored 24 points and had six rebounds and five assists to lead Boston while MarShon Brooks, a Providence College graduate, led the Nets with 17 points. New Jersey was without stars Deron Williams and Brook Lopez in the loss, but both will play against the Celtics on Friday night.
Last Time Out: Both teams have picked up their play recently, with the Celtics winning their last two. Most recently, the Celtics staved off a late comeback attempt from the Milwaukee Bucks to post a 102-96 win on Wednesday. Kevin Garnett had 25 points and 10 rebounds and made four big free throws in the final minute to capture the win.
The Nets are coming off an impressive 93-92 win over the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. Brook Lopez had a magnificent game, scoring 38 and grabbing six rebounds to pace New Jersey. Anthony Morrow had 15 points off the bench and ex-Celtic Gerald Green scored 10 in his first game with the team. Williams finished with only 12 points but did have 12 assists in the win.
Statistics Central: Paul Pierce is the Celtics' leading scorer, averaging 17.2 points. Kevin Garnett leads the team in rebounding (8.0 RPG) and Rajon Rondo averages team highs in assists (9.6 APG) and steals (1.5 SPG). Jermaine O'Neal leads the team in blocks per game with 1.7. Boston ranks 26th in the league in scoring (89.7 PPG), 30th in rebounding (39.2 RPG), fifth in assists (22.2 APG) and third in points allowed (88.6 PPG).
Deron Williams is the Nets' leader in scoring, assists and steals, averaging 21.9 points, 8.3 assists and 1.1 steals. Kris Humphries leads the team in rebounding (10.7 RPG) and blocks (1.3 BPG). New Jersey ranks 25th in scoring (92.5 PPG), 29th in rebounding (39.8 RPG), 21st in assists (19.9 APG) and 25th in points allowed (99.1 PPG).
Storyline: Be warned, Celtics fans. Boston may have beaten this New Jersey team by 19 points at home earlier this season, but this is not the same Nets team. The squad that the Celtics beat down was missing its top two players -- Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. New Jersey's star duo will be back in uniform Friday, and if their recent play is any indication, they will be very tough to stop.
Williams, an All-Star, continues to put up his strong numbers and can terrorize any opponent. After all, this is the man that temporarily halted Linsanity in New York City with his monster game. Lopez scored 38 points in his last game in a win over the Mavs. So make no mistake, these Nets aren't pushovers anymore. They've won three of their last five.
Boston, meanwhile, is playing better basketball. To some degree, at least. After losing five straight heading into the All-Star break, the Celtics have come out of the gate with two consecutive wins to star the second half. Unfortunately, they didn't exactly beat quality opponents, posting close wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks. Both games featured points where Boston was dominant on offense, only to nearly give the game away in the final minutes.
Rajon Rondo has been immersed in trade rumors. Again. The talks haven't had a negative impact on his game before, though. If anything, the rumors have fueled Rondo's play. Rondo didn't have a great game by any means against Cleveland, as he was scoreless, but rebounded with his third triple double of the season on Wednesday against the Bucks. Should the Celtics get a game like that out of Rondo, it may be enough to lead the C's to another victory.
Players To Watch: Deron Williams and Brook Lopez will carry the Nets on offense, and both should have strong games. MarShon Brooks is always a dangerous option, too, and Sundiata Gaines had an admirable game in the last meeting in January. Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will lead the Celtics, without any surprise.
Prediction: We likely won't see as big of a win against New Jersey this time around, but the Celtics are still the better team on paper. If only that won games, huh? If the Celtics can stop or even limit Williams and Lopez, they stand a good chance to win. They probably won't shut both of them down, but limiting them is not impossible. Final Score: Celtics 89, Nets 85.
Friday, Mar 2, 2012, 7:30 PM EST