All season long, the knock against the Celtics has been that they can’t get it done against elite NBA teams. Luckily for them, their opponent Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden is no such team. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The C’s are gearing up for their final matchup this season with the New Jersey Nets, against whom they’re already a dominating 3-0 this season. Now, they go for the sweep. The C’s are coming off a difficult loss at home in which they collapsed in the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but after falling to the NBA’s best team, the C’s get a shot at the worst.
Celtics (36-20, first place in Atlantic Division, third place in Eastern Conference) Nets (5-52, fifth place in Central Division, 15th place in Eastern Conference)
Head to Head
It doesn’t get more lopsided than this — the Celtics have won eight straight games against the Nets dating back to early 2007, and they’ll look for a ninth straight win on Saturday afternoon. Boston is 3-0 against New Jersey this season. The C’s won two easy ones on the road against New Jersey this season, and they won handily at home on Feb. 5, pulling away 97-86 behind a shutdown defensive effort in the second half. The Celtics have dominated this matchup ever since the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
At this point, it’s time to start putting the 2009-10 Nets into historical perspective. The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers lost 73 games, an all-time record in the NBA. It’s been almost four decades, and no one has challenged that record yet. Are the Nets about to? They’ve looked pretty bad so far this season, but it’s hard to believe they’re the worst ever. They’ve got two skilled offensive players in Brook Lopez and Devin Harris, and that alone should be enough to keep them from reaching historic levels of failure. If the Nets go on a run, they can avoid making history. But don’t expect the Celtics to let them start that run on Saturday afternoon.
Celtics Point guard: Rajon Rondo Shooting guard: Ray Allen Small forward: Marquis Daniels Power forward: Kevin Garnett Center: Kendrick Perkins
Nets Point guard: Devin Harris Shooting guard: Courtney Lee Small forward: Trenton Hassell Power forward: Yi Jianlian Center: Brook Lopez
Celtics The Celtics are 10-1 this season against Atlantic Division opponents.
They have allowed 94.1 points per game this season, fewest in the NBA.
Rajon Rondo has slipped to fourth in the NBA in assists per game with 9.8, trailing Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
Kendrick Perkins still leads the NBA by shooting 61.7 percent from the field. He is ahead of Dwight Howard (60.7 percent) and Nene Hilario (58.8 percent).
Ray Allen scored 21 points in the Celtics’ loss to the Cavalliers on Thursday night. He now has 115 points in his last five games.
Marquis Daniels is averaging 6.6 points per game this season, a career low.
Kevin Garnett has averaged 18.8 points and 11.1 rebounds against the Nets in his career.
Cavaliers The Nets are 2-27 on the road this season.
They have 1,028 total assists this season. Only the Washington Wizards, with 1,028, have fewer.
Brook Lopez has 186 offensive rebounds this season, fifth-most in the NBA.
Devin Harris had 28 points against the Blazers on Tuesday night, a career high.
Courtney Lee also had 28 points on Tuesday, shooting 11-for-18 from the field. He is 24-for-47 in his last three games.
Yi Jianlian has 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season, both career highs.
Trenton Hassell has 7.2 points per game in 22 career meetings with the Celtics.
Black and Blue
Celtics Marquis Daniels started Thursday night against Cleveland despite battling flu-like symptoms. He played over 30 minutes but finished with only four points.
Paul Pierce is missing in action with a sprained right thumb.
Cavs Jarvis Hayes is questionable with a strained left calf.
This Date in Celtics History
In 1959, the Celtics scored an all-time record 173 points in one game. Bob Cousy, Boston’s Hall of Fame point guard, piled up 28 assists as the Celtics rolled to a 173-139 win over the Minneapolis Lakers.
“I think Ray coming off of pick and rolls was presenting layups, and him shooting the 3, we went with that. Second half, we didn’t move the ball strong side to weak side fairly enough. We’re an executing team. We’ve got to do that if you’re trying to beat these good teams. Maybe you can get away with that against subpar teams, but when we play teams like Cleveland, L.A. and Orlando, we have to execute.” –Kevin Garnett, in the Boston Herald, on the Celtics’ failure to execute offensively down the stretch on Thursday against Cleveland
Paul Pierce may be battling a thumb injury as the Nets roll into town this weekend, but that shouldn’t be a problem against a Celtics team that’s won four out of its last six since the All-Star break. The Celtics should have more than enough defensive prowess in this game to stop this train-wreck Nets squad. As long as Kendrick Perkins can play heads-up defense against Brook Lopez down low and the C’s guards can stay alert against Devin Harris, Boston should have this one in the bag. But the Celtics also must avoid overconfidence to ensure smooth sailing to a win.