BOSTON CELTICS (5-3)
at BROOKLYN NETS (4-2)
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Brooklyn -3, Total: 192
With Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo’s playing status uncertain, the Nets must like their chances to take another step up the Atlantic Division ladder on Thursday night.
Rondo injured his ankle in the third quarter against the Jazz on Wednesday night, but not before he was able to get his 10th assist to extend his double-digit assists streak to 32 straight regular-season games. His passing helped the Celtics beat Utah 98-93 for their third straight win (2-0-1 ATS). The Nets are also riding a three-game win streak, shooting 55% FG in beating Cleveland 114-101 on Tuesday.
Who will win this Atlantic Division clash? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. This season, the experts are a collective 47-39-4 ATS (55%) in NBA Best Bets. StatFox Scott was 2-0 ATS in his Wednesday Best Bets and is 63% ATS (12-7) for the year. StatFox Brian is 58% ATS (14-10-1) for the season, and StatFox Gary is at 56% ATS (5-4-1). As far as Totals go, StatFox Scott is an amazing 18-5 (78%) on Totals for the season after his Chicago/Phoenix Over pick on Wednesday eclipsed the total by 27 points.
Boston, which is 5-1 SU in its past six contests, seems to finally be headed in the right direction. SF Paul Pierce is playing good basketball this season averaging 19.8 PPG and 6.1 RPG, but he's shooting just 38.7% from the floor. Pierce would really miss Rondo’s passing if he were to sit out of Thursday night’s game and it would force him to run the offense himself which is not his strong suit. A key player to watch in Thursday’s game is SG Jason Terry, who is coming off a rough game in which he scored three points and could only get off one shot in 22 minutes. Terry is averaging 10.8 PPG for Boston on 49% FG, so getting him back on track is crucial for Doc Rivers. PF Kevin Garnett also needs to step up offensively, coming off an 11-point outing versus Utah.
Deron Williams was finally able to find chemistry with SG Joe Johnson against Cleveland last game where Williams racked up 26 points with 10 assists and Johnson erupted for 25 as well on 9-of-16 shooting. This marked the first time that either backcourt mate had scored 20 points this season. As for the frontcourt, the Nets are still without SF Gerald Wallace (ankle), but his absence hasn’t hindered the team much at all. Brook Lopez will need to have a big game on Thursday and that would mean him having more than his 6.7 rebound per game average. The Nets have rebounded well as a team though (+3.0 RPG margin, T-6th in NBA) and that should continue against a Celtics team tied for the second-worst rebounding margin in the league at minus-6.0 RPG.