NBA

Celtics aim to continue excellent road record in Brooklyn

By Sports Desk February 23, 2022

With another NBA All-Star weekend in the books, Thursday sees the league back in regular season action, with one of the more intriguing games taking place at Barclays Center when the Brooklyn Nets entertain the Boston Celtics.

They played in the same venue earlier this month, with Boston easing to a 126-91 victory, which the Nets will be eager to avenge this time.

Somewhat surprisingly given the strength of their respective rosters, Celtics star Jayson Tatum was the only player representing either team to play in the All-Star game, scoring eight points during his 20 minutes on court for Team Durant.

Kevin Durant missed the game in Cleveland with a knee injury and is likely to be out of this clash as well. 

Nets general manager Sean Marks recently said Durant and new arrival Ben Simmons could be ready to play in the coming weeks, but the visit of the Celtics is likely to come too soon for both.

Steve Nash's team currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference on 31-28, having fallen away dramatically in the last month, losing 11 games in a row until beating the Sacramento Kings on Valentine's Day.

Injuries have played a big part in the dip in form, but back-to-back wins against the Kings and the New York Knicks suggested they could be about to turn things around, even with a defeat to the Washington Wizards in their last game before the All-Star break.

The Celtics, meanwhile, have been going in the other direction, winning nine games in a row before a loss to the Detroit Pistons ahead of the break, and they find themselves sixth in the East on 34-26.

Coach Ime Udoka has led his team to a five-game winning streak on the road and will be looking to make it six in Brooklyn.

He will be reliant on Tatum and Jaylen Brown to pick up where they left off. The Celtics' star duo combined for 57 points and 20 rebounds in the recent 135-87 thrashing of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The impact of guard Derrick White could also be crucial after his recent arrival from the San Antonio Spurs. He has made a respectable start to life with Boston, averaging 12.3 points per game in his four outings.

The restart of the league signals the beginning of what will no doubt be a tense run in a tightly contested Eastern Conference, and both these teams will be looking to get off to a perfect start on Thursday.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Brooklyn Nets – Patty Mills

It's a home game, so Kyrie Irving (vaccination status) cannot play, and with James Harden gone and no Durant or Simmons yet, the pressure will once again fall on Mills to be his team's main man.

The Australian narrowly missed out on the three-point finals at All-Star weekend but is enjoying a career-best season for points (13.4 average per game) in Brooklyn after moving from San Antonio last year.

His three-point shooting is what has been letting him down in recent times, going five games in a row scoring single figures for points, before hitting 22 in the loss to Washington before the All-Star break, including five of seven from beyond the arc.

Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

Tatum has been his team's standout player this season, and the momentum from featuring in the All-Star game could see him raise that level even higher.

Only three players in the league have scored more than his 1,439 points this season (DeMar DeRozan - 1,547, Trae Young - 1,475, Giannis Antetokounmpo - 1,443), while only DeRozan (566) and Nikola Jokic (516) have hit more than his 500 field goals.

Interestingly, Tatum took more of a back seat when Boston beat Brooklyn earlier this month, with Brown and Marcus Smart (both 22) scoring more than his 19 points.

KEY BATTLES – Make a better start, Brooklyn

The recent game between these two saw the Celtics race out to a 35-16 lead after the first quarter. It was always a big ask for the Nets to do anything from there.

Where Brooklyn will likely look for success is in mid-range, where no team in the league has a higher percentage of field goals from (48.7). However, only four teams have a lower percentage of mid-range field goals allowed than Boston (39.9 per cent).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Although the Celtics won at Barclays Center earlier this month, the Nets had won the previous four meetings between the two, including at TD Garden in November, and all three encounters last season.

Related items

  • Phillips, Guardiola and Man City a match made in heaven Phillips, Guardiola and Man City a match made in heaven

    When it comes to recruitment and squad construction, there aren't many clubs – if any – that are run more effectively than Manchester City.

    Their Premier League title success in the 2021-22 season was just another reminder of how good they are on the pitch, yet the people in charge are not the types to simply sit around admiring their achievements.

    Even before winning a fourth Premier League crown in five years – a feat only ever previously managed by Alex Ferguson's Manchester United – it was clear where City were going to strengthen.

    A deal for arguably the most sought-after striker in world football, Erling Haaland, was wrapped up two weeks before the season ended, and then with Fernandinho expected to depart, another central midfielder was to be the second priority.

    Kalvin Phillips proved to be the chosen one, with City confirming on Monday that the England international has completed his reported £45million move from Leeds United, having undergone a medical on Friday.

    It's an impressive statement by City, who have already bolstered their two primary problem areas – if you can call them that – by the first week of July.

    And with respect to Phillips' signing, there's a lot to suggest it's a shrewd acquisition.

     

    Moulded by Bielsa

    Of course, the most obvious – and arguably crucial – link here is Marcelo Bielsa. It was under the Argentinian coach that Phillips has played the best football of his career and cemented himself as an England regular.

    Bielsa is also considered one of Pep Guardiola's greatest inspirations, with an apparent 11-hour meeting between the pair back in 2006 said to have played a major role in the City boss' decision to go into management.

    The similarities between the two coaches' styles of play are significant, and this should facilitate a smooth transition for Phillips.

    Under Bielsa he'll have become accustomed to not only intense training sessions, but also a playing philosophy that revolves around possession-based football and relentless counter pressing.

    In terms of the latter, City are perhaps a little more considered in their efforts compared to Bielsa's Leeds, but either way Phillips has been exposed to the same fundamentals, and that can only be a tick in the pros column.

    After all, a second-season bounce has become commonplace for signings under Guardiola. Numerous players have needed a full campaign to truly get to grips with the demands required by the Catalan coach before going on to show significant improvement and growth thereafter – Phillips might be better-equipped than most to hit the ground running.

    But that brings up a separate issue; what will Phillips be to City?

    Rodri the immovable object

    Having come through Leeds' academy, established himself as a key player and then gone on to be a fulcrum in Bielsa's team, Phillips was the first name on the teamsheet – when fit – for several years at Elland Road.

    Regardless of his suitability for City, it seems unlikely he'll enjoy a similar status in Guardiola's team. Phillips is at his most effective as lone defensive midfielder, but so too is Rodri, and it's difficult to imagine the Spain international being suddenly taken out of the team given how effective he's proven to be.

    Rodri's 2,937 successful passes in the opposition's half since the start of the 2020-21 season is over 400 more than any other Premier League player, and his 577 ball recoveries over the same period is the joint-most alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, though the Dane has played almost 1,000 minutes more.

    Of course, who's to say Phillips couldn't play the role even more effectively? But the key thing to consider is that Rodri has an important function in both keeping City on the ball and then winning it back when they don't, and he demonstrably does both well.

    Nevertheless, Guardiola's proven he's a coach keen to rotate. He gave at least 900 minutes of Premier League football to 18 players last season, with only four teams bettering that, so Phillips can still expect plenty of game time.

    And, to be fair, Phillips might not have even been up to the task of being a regular starter for City given how much time he spent sidelined last season.

    A match made in heaven

    Clearly, then, Guardiola's rotation policy would suggest Phillips will have opportunities to deputise for Rodri and take up the back-up role vacated by Fernandinho, yet there's no doubt he possesses the skillset to also play alongside the former Atletico Madrid midfielder as well.

    First and foremost, he's a more progressive player than Rodri. Over the past two seasons, 28 per cent of Phillips' passes have been forward, the exact same figure as Fernandinho and a fair bit more than Rodri's 20 per cent.

    Similarly, in the same period Phillips has played 3.5 passes into the box every 90 minutes, whereas Rodri has averaged two, and his 1.0 dribble attempts each game is also slightly more than his new team-mate (0.9).

    But in a way it shouldn't necessarily matter which midfield role Phillips plays in, given he has a range of abilities that should suit him either as a number six or a number eight, especially in a Guardiola team.

    On top of that, Phillips doesn't turn 27 until December, so he is very much entering his prime years, and if anyone can squeeze every ounce of potential out of a player, it's Guardiola.

    Then when you consider Phillips' history with Bielsa and type of team he played in at Leeds, everything points to this being a match made in heaven.

  • Man City sign Phillips from Leeds on six-year deal Man City sign Phillips from Leeds on six-year deal

    Kalvin Phillips has signed for Manchester City from Leeds United in a deal that is reportedly worth up to £45million.

    City, who had already signed striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, were in the market for a holding midfielder to complement Rodri after Fernandinho confirmed he would be leaving the Premier League champions after nine years with the club.

    Phillips was identified as the ideal replacement and City have moved quickly to sign the England international, who has penned a six-year contract.

    It was reported last month that City and Leeds had agreed a fee of £42m, plus a further £3m in add-ons, and the move was officially confirmed on Monday.

    City director of football Txiki Begiristain said: "Kalvin is a player that we have long admired, and at both domestic and international level, he has proved his fantastic ability and quality over the past few seasons. 

    "His reading of the game, alongside his passing ability, energy and drive make him a formidable talent and he is a player who has a fantastic will to win. 

    "We feel he will be a superb addition to our squad and that he will complement our game perfectly. 

    "Everyone here is looking forward to watch Kalvin play and develop even further over the next few years."

    Phillips came through Leeds' academy and helped the Whites back into the Premier League under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa after a 16-year absence from the top flight.

    The 26-year-old was an integral part of Leeds' success in their first season back in the big time, making 29 appearances as Bielsa's side finished ninth, and the midfielder went on to start every game for England at Euro 2020, with Gareth Southgate's team losing to Italy on penalties in the final.

    However, Phillips' impact was limited in the 2021-22 season as he struggled with injury. He returned for the run-in as Leeds – under Bielsa's replacement Jesse Marsch – managed to stave off relegation.

    Despite only playing 20 league games, he ranked third in ball recoveries (180) among Leeds outfield players while also recording the sixth most tackles (54).

    He will hope to help Pep Guardiola's side retain the league title as well as deliver the club's first Champions League crown after disappointing final and semi-final defeats in the past two years.

    Phillips' arrival at the Etihad Stadium came on the same day that forward Gabriel Jesus completed a £45m switch to fellow Premier League side Arsenal.

  • BREAKING NEWS: Man City sign Phillips from Leeds on six-year deal BREAKING NEWS: Man City sign Phillips from Leeds on six-year deal

    Kalvin Phillips has signed for Manchester City from Leeds United in a deal that is reportedly worth up to £45million.

    City, who had already signed striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, were in the market for a holding midfielder to complement Rodri after Fernandinho confirmed he would be leaving the Premier League champions after nine years with the club.

    Phillips was identified as the ideal replacement and City have moved quickly to sign the England international, who has penned a six-year contract.

    It was reported last month that City and Leeds had agreed a fee of £42m plus a further £3m in add-ons and the move was officially confirmed on Monday.

    City director of football Txiki Begiristain said: "Kalvin is a player that we have long admired, and at both domestic and international level, he has proved his fantastic ability and quality over the past few seasons. 

    "His reading of the game, alongside his passing ability, energy and drive make him a formidable talent and he is a player who has a fantastic will to win. 

    "We feel he will be a superb addition to our squad and that he will complement our game perfectly. 

    "Everyone here is looking forward to watch Kalvin play and develop even further over the next few years."

    Phillips came through Leeds' academy and helped the Whites back into the Premier League under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa after a 16-year absence from the top flight.

    The 26-year-old was an integral part of Leeds' success in their first season back in the big time, making 29 appearances as Bielsa's side finished ninth, and the midfielder went on to start every game for England at Euro 2020, with Gareth Southgate's team losing to Italy on penalties in the final.

    However, Phillips' impact was limited in the 2021-22 season as he struggled with injury. He returned for the run-in as Leeds - under Bielsa's replacement Jesse Marsch - managed to stave off relegation.

    Despite only playing 20 league games, he ranked third in ball recoveries (180) among Leeds outfield players while also recording the sixth most tackles (54).

    He will hope to help Pep Guardiola's side retain the league title as well as deliver the club's first Champions League crown after disappointing final and semi-final defeats in the past two years.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.