The Boston Celtics will try to avoid a letdown from a phenomenal comeback win when they host the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. After falling behind by 26 points to Houston on Thursday, the Celtics staged a memorable rally that was capped by Al Horford’s go-ahead basket with 3.7 seconds left, lifting Boston in the opener of a four-game homestand.
“I’ve had a few comebacks, but this is a special one. From just how we started, it was just so ugly,” guard Kyrie Irving told reporters after a 26-point effort. “They came out firing. We just had to battle back. It took a lot. It took everybody.” It was just the second win in the last five home games for the Celtics, who entered Saturday having played two more games than any other team in the league. The Nets have had a busy pace as well with five games in an eight-day stretch - including four straight on the road capped by Friday’s 111-87 victory in Miami, which represents Brooklyn’s second-largest margin of victory this season. “We weren’t perfect but we were more perfect than the other night,” coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters, referring to a 15-point loss at New Orleans two nights earlier. “The challenge for us is to do it more consistently. That’s what we’re searching for.”
TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, YES (Brooklyn), NBCSN Boston
ABOUT THE NETS (13-22): The most consistent performer of late has been forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who made 8-of-9 shots and had 18 points and eight rebounds at Miami. The third-year pro is averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 boards over the last six games and recorded multiple steals in his last two contests. Joe Harris made all four of his 3-point attempts en route to a season-high 21 points versus the Heat, eclipsing the 19 points he scored in 20 minutes in a 109-102 loss to Boston on Nov. 14.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (29-10): Marcus Smart chipped in 13 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals against Houston, but it was his ability to draw two offensive fouls against Rockets superstar James Harden in the closing seconds that made headlines. “It just shows the value of Marcus Smart to our group and what he does for our team. It all started with him in the second half,” Horford told the media. “It was just a domino effect. That’s how special he is. And when he plays at that level we’re just a different team.” Rookie forward Jayson Tatum missed all six of his 3-point attempts over the last two games to fall into second place in the NBA at 47.5 percent from long range.
1. Nets G Caris LeVert had a career-high 11 assists Friday and scored at least 12 points - his average for the season - in seven consecutive games.
2. Celtics SG Jaylen Brown (knee) missed two straight games and is day-to-day.
3. Boston has won six straight meetings.
PREDICTION: Celtics 109, Nets 98