While the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets sit atop of the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics — the emerging dark horse of the East — are steadily approaching Brooklyn for a marquee showdown, this week.
The Sixers (39-17) and Nets (38-18) — which are two heavily favored championship-contending foes of the Atlantic Division — are currently one game apart from one another at the top of the standings and with the Nets trailing an inch behind, a win against the Celtics next Friday can only help their case. Meanwhile, the Celtics and the New York Knicks — the other two teams of the Atlantic — are the two hottest teams in the East.
Celtics Vs. Nets: Will Boston Send A Message?
Both are currently on a five-game winning streak and showing promise at just the right time. However, for Boston, the situation’s a little different.
The Celtics have eyes on returning to the Eastern Conference finals.
Equipped with two thriving young All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown alongside veteran point guard Kemba Walker — the significant spike in the trio’s play of late is turning the Celtics into a legitimate threat. Tatum, who followed up his 53 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week by scoring 28 and 32 respectively against the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers, got help against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Brown, who scored a career-high 42 points in January against the Sixers, came within one field goal of tying that mark, this week. Jaylen scored a game-high 40 points; fending off the Lakers for the Celtics while keeping their winning streak alive.
Boston Celtics’ All-Star Duo Turning Into a New ‘Big 3’?
And if you’re Kemba, you know the Boston wouldn’t have entered the Staples Center with any form of a winning streak if it wasn’t for a 21-point performance in Portland. Walker also averaged 6.6 assists while shooting 46.1% from the floor throughout Boston’s three-game road trip out West.
The Celtics also did it, in part, without their rising starting center in Robert Williams and their new sharp-shooter in Evan Fournier, who Boston hasn’t seen much of since his impressive debut. Now, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, after bringing in reinforcements just before the trade deadline, brought in one more.
Boston announced the signing of free agent Jabari Parker, Friday evening. Adding another scoring weapon for Stevens’ second unit while the Celtics are stacking up in the win column; is this the beginning of us seeing Boston dominate from here to the regular season’s finish line?
Still too early to say. It does, however, make next Friday’s matchup between the Celtics and the Nets all the more exciting.
LaMarcus Aldridge Retires From NBA, Will Nets Grab No. 1?
As for Brooklyn, the Nets are still reeling from the shocking retirement of one its one. Nets center LaMarcus Aldridge announced his retirement from the NBA.
Aldridge, 35, shared a letter via Twitter explaining that after experiencing an irregular heartbeat, he’s decided to walk away from the game.
“My last game, I played while dealing with an irregular heartbeat,” Aldridge wrote in an open letter via Twitter. “Later on that night, my rhythm got even worse which really worried me even more. Though I’m better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I’ve experienced. With that being said, I’ve made the difficult decision to retire from the NBA.”
The news dropped after Brooklyn’s loss against the 76ers, Wednesday night — which was a golden opportunity for them to reclaim No. 1. Not even the return of Kyrie Irving, who’s missed a string of games due to personal reasons, could help knock off Philly.
For one reason or another, the Nets can’t seem to stay out of the news lately — be it Irving’s decision to sit out of games, Kevin Durant’s latest social media feud, or an unexpected retirement announcement. Still, the Nets bounced back with a 130-115 win against the Charlotte Hornets, Friday night.
And they have an opportunity to tie Philly in the win column if they’re able to top the Miami Heat this Sunday.