Celtics-Nets Preview

After the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics completed their

blockbuster trade last summer, few likely expected Boston to be

atop the Atlantic Division with Brooklyn fighting to stay out of

last place.

But that’s exactly where these clubs stand heading into Tuesday

night’s meeting in Brooklyn.

Agreed upon in principle on the night of the draft, the teams

officially completed a deal in July that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul

Pierce and Jason Terry from Boston to Brooklyn in exchange for

Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Kris

Joseph and first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Brooklyn was clearly mortgaging its future while trying to

achieve immediate success.

“This team will be dazzling to watch and tough to compete

against,” owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a statement.

Prokhorov’s declaration has been a fry cry from reality under

first-year coach Jason Kidd. The 6-14 Nets are only ahead of the

5-14 Knicks in the Atlantic Division, while surprising Boston

(10-12) sits in first place.

Garnett is averaging career lows with 6.4 points per game on

36.2 percent shooting. Pierce was also averaging personal worsts

with 12.4 points and a 36.8 field-goal percentage before missing

the last five games due to a non-displaced fracture in his right

hand. There’s a chance he could play Tuesday against the club he

scored more than 24,000 points for over 15 seasons, though he’s

considered doubtful.

The Nets should be bolstered by the return of point guard Deron

Williams, who is expected to play for the first time since

re-injuring his left ankle Nov. 20. Timetables are still unclear

for the returns of Terry (knee) and Andrei Kirilenko (back).

However, even as Brooklyn gets healthier, the team will likely

need more time to properly gel together.

“Chemistry just doesn’t snap and you wave a magic wand and,

‘Voila!'” Garnett, who will be playing his first game versus Boston

since March 4, 2007, told the team’s website. “Those things play a

big part.”

Brook Lopez has seemingly been the one constant for the Nets,

scoring a season-high 32 points and going 11 of 13 from the field

in a 90-82 win in Milwaukee on Saturday despite facing numerous

double teams.

“That’s who he is,” Kidd said of Lopez, whose 20.6 scoring

average is the highest of his career. “He’s a guy who demands

attention. Again, he’s seen a lot of double teams in his young

career. He’s making all the right plays. He’s letting guys get to

their spots.”

The youth-laden Celtics – whose oldest starter is the

28-year-old Brandon Bass – have won three in a row and six of

eight. Their 114-73 victory over the Knicks on Sunday was the

league’s most lopsided game this season.

Converted point guard Jordan Crawford had 23 points on a

career-high six 3-pointers to go along with seven assists. He’s

averaging 23.3 points over his last three contests while shooting

61.0 percent from the field.

“It was just fun to get a win like that in here because I’ve

been on the other side of it a couple times,” Crawford said. “It’s

good to get a win against the division.”

The Celtics enjoyed another hot start, racing out to a 25-3

lead. They’re averaging 31.2 points in the first quarter of their

last five games while shooting 57.8 percent and holding opponents

to 15.6 points.

Joe Johnson is averaging 20.5 points in his last 11 games versus

Boston while shooting 48.3 percent from 3-point range.

The Celtics will be in for another reunion Wednesday when they

welcome home former coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles

Clippers.