BOSTON – The Brooklyn Nets are starting to win more games and the Boston Celtics couldn't be happier about it.
Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick, the last crumb from the 2013 trade that just seems to keep on giving to the Celtics, was sent to Cleveland as part of the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade.
There was some concern among Boston fans that the Celtics included what may wind up being the No. 1 pick in an upcoming draft that has at least a couple of players pegged by some as potential franchise cornerstones.
But the way the Nets (13-22) have exceeded some early season prognostications, that pick may not be as near the top of the draft board as Cavaliers and others anticipated.
Brooklyn comes into tonight’s game against Boston (29-10) in a tie for the 11th-best record in the Eastern Conference, and are coming off a 111-87 thumping of the Miami Heat -- a team that has beaten the Celtics twice this season.
You can count Marcus Morris among the Celtics not taking the much-improved Nets lightly.
“This is one of those games where you have to come out, you gotta hit them first,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “If they get comfortable, they can play with anybody in the league.”
Brooklyn has been one of the NBA’s higher scoring teams, averaging 107.5 points per game which ranks eighth in the league.
Like many teams, the Nets look to score from 3-point range a lot.
They average 12.1 made three-pointers per game which ranks third in the NBA, and are second only to Houston when it comes to 3-point attempts (34.3) per game. And when they aren’t launching 3’s, Brooklyn has managed to get to the free throw line consistently. They average 24.6 free throw attempts per game, which ranks fourth in the NBA.
But Brooklyn’s defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Nets are allowing teams to score 109.7 points per game which ranks 27th in the league. Defending the paint has been particularly problematic for them, with opponents averaging 45.9 points in the paint, which ranks 23rd in the NBA.
Brooklyn presents another up-and-coming challenger to Boston in the East, but the Nets’ ascension this season makes parting ways with the Brooklyn pick much easier to stomach for fans who can see now that the Nets aren’t likely to be among the bottom-five teams in the NBA and thus the pick won’t be quite as high in the draft as some thought.
Morris recalls watching video of the Nets against Washington and Miami, teams that the Nets beat this season that the Celtics were beaten by.
“We have to take these guys seriously,” Morris said.