The Nets have been rolling, and maybe it’s the change in scenery that has done them good. They just took down their cross-town rivals the Knicks on Monday night with a 96-89 victory, a game in which their trio of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson totaled 67 points. Call it a big three? It’s hard not to, in light of the fact the Nets are 9-4 and leading the division.
The Nets have been doing it big late in games, despite Deron Williams nursing a sprained wrist that rendered his shot ineffective on Monday night. Williams hit just 6-of-17 from the floor, but his status as a top-five point guard when healthy is indisputable.
He’ll be slowed by Rajon Rondo, though.
Rondo is now one of the league’s best and most popular players (he is 6th in jersey sales this year). He’s looking to pass John Stockton tonight on the all-time list for most consecutive 10-plus assist games, as Rondo has dished out 10-plus dimes in 38 consecutive games now.
The C’s haven’t been playing their best ball defensively though, and many speculate that it will take the return of shooting guard Avery Bradley to return them to that tier of elite defensive teams.
Bradley is due back in mid-December and has been making progress, but the C’s can’t pin their season’s hopes on the return of a player who didn’t even average 10 points per game last season (Yes, we all realize his impact goes FAR beyond the stat sheet).
Look for Rondo and Williams to go hard at it. They are both fighting for the East’s starting point guard spot, though Rondo seems like a near-lock at this point to capture the honor, especially in light of his skyrocketing popularity, as I mentioned.
On the interior, it will be up to Kevin Garnett to slow Brook Lopez, who has scored at least 20 in his last nine games, while shooting 55 percent from the floor over that span.
Garnett is a lock down defender, but the C’s have a lot of options to worry about on a Nets team that features so many great threats. They have seven players averaging seven points or more per game, and they are using a 10-man rotation, dipping deep into their bench to feature the likes of the decrepit Jerry Stackhouse and offensively deficient Keith Bogans.
The game promises to be a good one, as the Celtics try to improve to 9-6 on the year with a win tonight. Going three games above .500 would be huge, as the Eastern Conference is deeper and more talented this year than in the last five to seven seasons.