After both Irving and Horford played 35 minutes in Friday night's 114-112 victory in Boston over the Indiana Pacers -- a win that moved Boston into a tie with Indiana for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings with seven games to go -- the Celtics announced Saturday morning that both Horford (left knee soreness) and Irving (lower back soreness) would sit. The Celtics also said that Jayson Tatum is questionable with an illness.
Boston's two best players sitting out is a potential boon for the Nets, who are desperate for any victory in the midst of what is easily the toughest closing stretch in the entire league. Coming off a seven-game road trip that saw Brooklyn face five playoff teams, Saturday marks the beginning of a six-game closing stretch that sees the Nets face six teams currently in the playoffs: the Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks (twice), the Toronto Raptors, the Pacers and the Miami Heat -- a game in Brooklyn on the final day of the season that very well could be a play-in game for one, or both, teams.
The Nets begin Saturday in seventh place with a 38-38 record, a half-game behind the Detroit Pistons in sixth and a half-game ahead of the Heat in eighth. The Orlando Magic are another half-game behind the Heat in ninth, while the Charlotte Hornets are now two games back of eighth after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night.
Boston, meanwhile, holds a 2-1 edge in the season series with Indiana, giving them the current edge in the race for fourth, and with it home-court advantage when the two teams all but certainly face each other in the Eastern Conference playoffs in a couple of weeks. Boston's win Friday night meant that race will all but certainly be decided next Friday, when the Pacers host the Celtics in Indianapolis in the final meeting of the season between the two teams.