The Brooklyn Nets ride into Boston coming off a surprising win against the Chicago Bulls at home. After looking like a team that would struggle to even win ten games, the Nets have been rejuvenated by Jeremy Lin‘s return post All-Star break and managed to get to twenty wins on the season so far.
Boston, on the other hand, has the second best record in the Eastern Conference and looks like a team that could make a deep run in the playoffs. Featuring an All-Star in Isaiah Thomas, one of the best centers in basketball in Al Horford, and a defense that can suffocate teams seemingly at will, getting a win against this Boston Celtics team will be difficult. The Celtics will undoubtably look at this game versus the Nets as a tuneup game before the playoffs, especially given the beatdown they were given by LeBron James on April 5th.
If Brooklyn wants to upset the Celtics they will need to get Brook Lopez involved heavily in the game plan, avoid silly turnovers, and prevent Isaiah Thomas from taking over the second half of the game.
Brook has been on a little slump since his big back-to-back performance when he scored 59 points against the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks. He has failed to score more than 16 points in the past three games. If he wants to break the Nets all-time scoring record, he needs to hit a groove in these next two games. He does not face an easy matchup in Horford, but he should manage just fine. Horford is formidable, but given that Brook now has range to the three point line he should be able to run him all over the court and hopefully wear him out.
The Boston Celtics are a team that has been known to disrupt teams and force them into errant passes and silly mistakes. The Brooklyn Nets are a team that is known for making errant passes and silly mistakes all on their own. This does not make for a good matchup, but hope is not lost.
Brooklyn needs to operate through Jeremy Lin’s steady hand and decision making when he is on the floor. When he is off the floor, the ball should be in the hands of Spencer Dinwiddie, who has been playing some of the best basketball of his life over the past week or so.
It is no secret that Isaiah Thomas dominates the fourth quarter of games. If this game is still close at halftime, Brooklyn will need to buckle down and really hone in on Thomas in the second half. He is one of the most prolific fourth quarter scorers in the league so Brooklyn will need to do everything possible to slow him down.
Leaving Lin on him alone probably won’t work, the Nets need to try to get someone with length and agility on him like LeVert. If Crowder screens for Thomas, LeVert should switch to try to throw Thomas off his shot. Lin should be capable of denying Crowder an easy look on the switch and could probably stick with him on the perimeter but stands little chance against him in the post.
There is no perfect strategy given Foye’s presence and all of the weapons Boston has, but the Nets have been playing with an incredible amount of heart lately. If they get off to a hot start, Boston could be in for some trouble.