Celtics-Nets preview: How will KG hold up?

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Celtics-Nets preview: How will KG hold up?

BROOKLYN, NY - The health of Kevin Garnett is always a major concern for Doc Rivers.

It's an even bigger issue now that the C's are on the back end of a stretch in which they play eight games within a 12-day span that includes tonight's nationally-televised matchup at Brooklyn.

Aware of this, Rivers went into Wednesday's game against Utah wanting to limit Garnett's minutes.

Instead, he wound up playing just under 30 minutes, his norm this season. That tally included playing every minute of the fourth quarter which was a first for Garnett this season.

"Honestly, Kevin talked me into that," Rivers said. "I had no intention of playing him more than 25 minutes (against Utah)."

Garnett's presence in the fourth quarter was a key to the win, especially on the boards where he grabbed six of his team-high eight rebounds.

But having gone such a long stretch with no break and then turning around just 24 hours later to play on the road against one of the Eastern Conference's better centers, it leaves Rivers unsure of what he'll get from his defensive anchor tonight.

"We won the (Utah) game, so I'm happy about that," Rivers said. "Check with me after the (Brooklyn) game."

In addition to Garnett's impact, here are a few other keys to tonight's game as the C's try to extend their current winning streak to four in a row.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Nets coach Avery Johnson has the reputation of being a defensive-minded coach, and it's certainly looking that way early on with the Nets. One of the reasons they rank in the league's top 10 in fewest points allowed, is because of the way they defend 3-point shots. Simply put, nobody is doing it any better. Opponents are getting off just 16.5 3-point attempts per game which is the second-fewest in the league. Even more important? Brooklyn opponents are making a league-low 5.3 per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Keith Bogans: With Rondo (right ankle) questionable and Garnett potentially gassed after last night, Pierce has to dominate this matchup. Bogans is filling in for Gerald Wallace who suffered a left ankle sprain and has missed Brooklyn's last five games with the injury.

PLAYER TO WATCH: For the potential highlight-worthy dunk is reason enough to keep an eye on Jeff Green. But he's starting to show more consistency in his play of late, especially on offense. He's coming off a season-high 16 points which played a pivotal role in Boston extending its winning streak to three straight following Wednesday's victory over Utah.

STAT TO TRACK: Getting into the paint early and often will once again be a chief objective for the Boston Celtics in tonight's game. More often than not, that leads to a nice run of free throws. This season, Boston ranks third and fourth in free throws made (20.5) and taken (25.8), respectively. Meanwhile, Boston faces a Brooklyn team that has limited opponents to just 13.8 free throws made per game on 18 attempts which ranks second and third, respectively, in the NBA.

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas 'not worried' about end of scoring streak

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas 'not worried' about end of scoring streak

BOSTON – You knew sooner or later, Isaiah Thomas’ impressive scoring streak of games with 20 or more points had to come to an end.

That time was Monday night as Thomas had 19 points in Boston’s 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

While the Hawks certainly played well defensively against Thomas and the rest of the Celtics, the 5-foot-9 guard is quick to acknowledge that the Hawks didn’t all of a sudden come up with a game plan that can shut him down.

“They didn’t do anything special,” said Thomas after missing 17 of his 21 shot attempts. “I just missed a lot of shots in the paint that I usually make. I got to where I wanted to, but that wasn’t just me it was our team. We missed a lot of shots that we usually make and you got to tip your hat off to the Atlanta Hawks.”

In doing so, Thomas’ franchise-record streak of consecutive games with 20 or more points now stands at 43.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens saw first-hand how his players – including Thomas – missed a lot of shots they usually make.

But limiting Boston offensively always starts with how you defend Thomas.

“They were really aggressive on him,” Stevens said. “They were really tough on him. They bodied him up, they were physical, they had a bunch of different guys on him at different times, they were very active off of the screens.”

And as far as his streak of games with at least 20 points, Thomas said he’s not disappointed that it has come to an end.

“I’ll break it again,” he said. “I’m not worried about it, I’ll break it.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game which ended with a 114-98 Celtics loss to Atlanta.

 

STARS

Dennis Schroder

He was arguably the biggest difference-maker on the floor Monday night. In addition to doing an exceptional job defending Isaiah Thomas, he also led the Hawks with 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting with four rebounds and five assists.

Dwight Howard

His ejection aside, Howard’s presence around the rim at both ends of the floor caused major problems for Boston. He finished with a double-double of 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting along with 12 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Isaiah Thomas

The Hawks did about as good a job as we’ve seen any team at defending Thomas who still managed to lead the Celtics in scoring with 19 points on 4-for-21 shooting. For a minute there, he seemed to be flirting with a quadruple-double. In addition to his 19 points, he also had seven rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers.

 

STUDS

Jaylen Brown

His play was one of the few positives for Boston. He came off the bench to score 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting to go with five rebounds.

Taurean Prince

Only Paul Millsap logged more minutes on Monday than Prince whose defense and rebounding were huge. He had a near double-double of eight points and 12 rebounds.

 

DUDS

Celtics’ rebounding

This could be a dud for Boston almost every game, but they were worse than usual on Monday night. Atlanta had a 55-40 advantage on the boards which contributed to them dominating points in the paint (60-34), second-chance points (20-11) and fast-break points (15-7) which was fueled by rebounds followed by quick outlet passes to players in transition.

Isaiah Thomas on the end of his streak: 'I'll break it again'

Isaiah Thomas on the end of his streak: 'I'll break it again'

Isaiah Thomas discusses the Boston Celtics struggles and the end of his streak in the loss to the Atlanta Hawks.