Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
Can Rajon Rondo and the Celtics get past the Nets on Christmas Day?The Boston Celtics (13-13) visit the Brooklyn Nets (14-12) to tip off the NBA's Christmas Day slate at the Barclays Center (ESPN, noon). Here's what to watch for:
* LET'S GET PHYSICAL: The Nets manhandled the Celtics in two previous meetings this season, precipitating the Rajon Rondo-Kris Humphries dust-up last month in Boston. Coach Doc Rivers called his team "soft" in the aftermath and the Celtics have been trying to toughen up ever since (to mixed results as improved play hasn't translated to improved record). Thin on pure size to match up with the Nets, the Celtics still have to match Brooklyn's physicality without getting chippy. Boston simply isn't playing well enough to focus on anything but 48 minutes of consistent basketball.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Nets rank 10th in the league in offense while averaging 0.921 points per play, according to Synergy data. Brooklyn thrives in 1-on-1 situations, ranking 10th in spot-up shooting and second in isolations. Brook Lopez has quietly been the team's most efficient scorer (1.003 points per play, 88th percentile). Defensively, the Nets rank 21st (0.928 points per play) and are middle-of-the-pack in halfcourt sets. As good as they are generating points in isolation, the Nets are just as bad at preventing them. Teams have exploited Gerald Wallace (0.922 points per play, 28th percentile) this season.
* NETS CRASHING BACK DOWN: Shortly after their last win in Boston, the Nets topped the Magic to run their winning streak to five games and stood at 11-4 overall. Since then, Brooklyn is a mere 2-8, losing three straight to fall to 13-12. A note from ESPN Stats and Info: Over that span, only the Wizards (2-9), Cavaliers (2-11), Hornets (1-12) and Bobcats (0-12) have worse records. Like Boston, Brooklyn should be a bit of a desperate team on Christmas.
* CHRISTMAS IN FOCUS: Another nugget from our friends at Stats and Info: The Nets defeated the Celtics 117-81 back in 2002 in the only other meeting between these teams on Christmas. Boston is 11-17 all-time on Christmas, while the Nets are 4-3. The Celtics will play in their 29th Christmas game this year, which will tie them for fourth most Christmas games in league history, only the Knicks (48), Lakers (39), and Pistons (32) have played more.