The Boston Celtics have had to deal with their fair share of injuries already this season. Despite the rash of ailments, it’s been a while since this team has lost a game. Boston will look to run its winning streak to 13 games on Tuesday night in Brooklyn when they take on the Nets, who are facing injury issues of their own. The Nets are expected to be without point guard D’Angelo Russell for the next several games, thanks to a knee problem.
Boston just keeps stringing wins together regardless of which players are actually on the floor. Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, and (obviously) Gordon Hayward have each missed time, but it hasn’t slowed them down. Horford returned from a short concussion-related absence on Sunday, while Irving is set to hit the court tonight after missing that game with a facial fracture.
As he has done in the past, Irving will play with a protective face mask. The mask did not hinder Kyrie’s aggressiveness in the past, so we can only assume he will go full bore here tonight. Boston’s prized offseason acquisition has played incredibly well on both sides of the court through his first 13 games in Celtics green. The former All-Star is averaging 20.3 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.1 rebounds on 44 percent shooting from the field.
As for Horford, he has been the Celtics’ unheralded star to this point. He went through an uneven inaugural season in Beantown last year, but this season he is stuffing the stat sheet. The ex-Florida Gator is going for 15.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists on excellent 56 shooting from the floor. Horford has also connected on nearly 49 percent of his looks from beyond the long line.
Being without key cogs has forced role players to step up. To this point, they have certainly been up to the task. Rookie Jayson Tatum is playing like a guy that has been in the NBA for a decade. Ditto for Jaylen Brown, who is just beginning his second pro campaign. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart have given the Celtics strong minutes in the backcourt, too.
The Nets haven’t been as bad as many expected. Brooklyn has a rather unimpressive record of 5-8 through 13 games, but that’s a far more encouraging pace than they had last season. Unfortunately, they’ll be up against it here tonight without Russell, who leads the team in scoring at 20.9 points per game.
With Russell on the shelf, expect Spencer Dinwiddie to draw the start at point guard. Dinwiddie missed the last game himself with a hamstring problem, but he is reportedly good to go this evening. He’s made two starts already this season, one of which came in a game Russell missed. In that game, which was a win over the Cavaliers, Dinwiddie went off for 22 points, 6 assists, and 5 boards in 32 minutes. He has shown that he can be a more-than-capable fill-in when given the chance.
Dinwiddie will log the majority of the minutes leading the charge in the backcourt, while the rest of the Nets’ rotation is rather jumbled. Head coach Kenny Atkinson likes to play between 10 and 12 guys on a nightly basis, which leads to some uneven production. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will lead the team in scoring some nights, while a hot-shooting Allen Crabbe may do so the next.
With Irving back in the starting lineup, and with Russell out of it, it’s tough to see how the Nets can keep this one close. The Celtics will be eager to run their win streak to a baker’s dozen, and we’ve seen Brooklyn on the wrong end of some blowouts this season.