11/14 Game Preview: Celtics at Nets

NEW YORK — The next time Kyrie Irving takes the court, he might be wearing a mask to protect his face from any inadvertent elbows.

Whether Irving’s next appearance will be Tuesday when the Boston Celtics visit the Brooklyn Nets is unknown since the point guard is listed as questionable.

Irving is traveling with the team so there’s a decent chance he will play. Whether it’s Irving or Marcus Smart starting at point guard, the Celtics will attempt to continue winning and produce their 11th streak of at least 13 games in team history.

“We’re not going to make up for Kyrie Irving by somebody trying to be Kyrie Irving,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “We just have to all chip in and account for him as a team.”

The Celtics last won 13 in a row from Nov. 22 to Dec. 22, 2010, when Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were on a team that put together 14 straight victories. The team record is 19 set from Nov. 15 to Dec. 23, 2008, though talk about the streak isn’t ongoing in the locker room, according to Stevens.

“I haven’t heard any of the guys talk about (the streak),” Stevens said. “Certainly, we’re (the coaching staff) not talking about it.”

Boston (12-2) owns the league’s top record and has not lost since an eight-point loss to Milwaukee in their home opener on Oct. 18, a night after Gordon Hayward was lost for the season with a horrendous knee injury. The Celtics are allowing a league-low 94 points and are giving up 92.2 points during the streak.

Irving’s injury was scary when he took an elbow to the face from teammate Aron Baynes 1:50 into Friday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets. The Celtics appeared shell-shocked by scoring 11 points in the first quarter but came back from an 18-point deficit to post a 90-87 victory.

Win No. 11 was achieved without Al Horford and Irving.

Horford returned from a concussion Sunday and scored 21 points in a 95-94 win over the Toronto Raptors. Smart was the starting point guard for Irving and handed out nine assists.

“It took the whole team tonight to take over the absence of Kyrie,” Smart said. “He’s missed greatly, tremendously on this team. But that just shows the type of team we are. One of our brothers goes down again and we respond with a win.”

If Irving sports a mask Tuesday, the Celtics will hope to get a showing from him similar to five years ago. Irving scored 41 points with the mask for the Cleveland Cavaliers in a one-point loss at New York on Dec. 15, 2012.

The Nets have point guard injury problems of their own and will be without D’Angelo Russell.

Russell will sit out Tuesday due to a left knee contusion and Monday coach Kenny Atkinson said Russell is “day to day.”

The Nets did not announce exactly how many games Russell will miss, but he was sidelined for 11 games last season with the Los Angeles Lakers due to soreness in the same knee.

Russell was not supposed to be the primary point guard, but Brooklyn lost Jeremy Lin to a season-ending knee injury in its season opener. This season, Russell is averaging career highs of 20.9 points and 4.7 rebounds on a career-best 46.3 percent shooting.

Russell scored 26 points before getting hurt with 2:57 remaining in Saturday’s 114-106 loss at Utah. The Nets made a comeback in the second half after allowing 61 points by halftime.

“I didn’t think we were focused in the beginning,” Atkinson said. “I thought right off the bat, I thought they jumped on us. They were the more aggressive team and got us out of sorts.”

Spencer Dinwiddie started Oct. 25 and scored 22 points in a 112-107 win over Cleveland when Russell sat out with a sore right knee. He also sat out Saturday with a hamstring injury but is expected to start Tuesday.

Dinwiddie is averaging 9.8 points and 4.9 assists. He also is shooting 45 percent on 3-pointers.

The Nets are playing at home for the first time since a 122-114 loss to Phoenix on Oct. 31. Since Dinwiddie’s big night helped beat Cleveland, Brooklyn is 2-6 in its last eight games.

Both wins occurred during a five-game road trip as the Nets beat Phoenix and Portland. Those also represent the only games an opponent did not score 100 points against Brooklyn.

The Celtics have won the last five meetings.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *