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Game 20: Celtics vs. Nets

12/5/2010

at Prudential Center, 1 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)

Even without their star point guard, the Boston Celtics continued their dominance over the New Jersey Nets last month.

The Nets hope the return of All-Star point guard Devin Harris will produce a different result this time.

Rajon Rondo and the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics look to extend their season-best winning streak to seven on Sunday at Prudential Center, where Harris is expected to be in the lineup as the Nets try to snap an eight-game home skid to Boston.

With Rondo out with a strained left hamstring, the Celtics (15-4) trailed by as many as 10 in the third quarter, but Shaquille O'Neal scored a season-high 25 points to help carry the defending Eastern Conference champs to a 89-83 victory over the visiting Nets on Nov. 24.

The Celtics have won 13 of 14 overall in this matchup.

In four contests since missing three with the injury, Rondo has averaged 12.3 points and 13.8 assists. He leads the league with 14.1 assists per game.

The Celtics, whose last 7-0 stretch was an 11-game run from Nov. 22-Dec. 14, 2009, will look to inch closer to that mark with their ninth consecutive victory in New Jersey. In their last visit, the Celtics built a 36-point halftime lead and cruised to a 111-87 victory on Jan. 13.

Read the full preview HERE.

FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH

  • Lazy Sunday: In a night-owl league, the Celtics aren't exactly used to 1 p.m. kickoffs. In fact, the last matinee Boston engaged in, the Celtics walked away with a head-shaking 102-101 loss in Toronto last month. For a team big on routines, it's always interesting to see how they respond to the occasional changeup. Energy shouldn't be an issue for much of the game, but keep an eye on how Boston comes out of the gates.

  • Rondo vs. Harris: Not only is this a key matchup because it features two of the best young point guards in the league, but both are slightly hobbled. Rondo nearly pulled himself out at the start of Friday's game against the Bulls because of lingering soreness in his left hamstring (then endured a cringe-worthy, third-quarter plunge but emerged no worse for the wear), while Harris is set to rejoin the Nets' lineup after missing time with a strained knee.Harris is averaging 17.7 points, 6.6 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game in 18 appearances this season.

  • Opportunity knocks? Celtics coach Doc Rivers suggested after Friday's game that Boston needs another bench player to emerge in order to drive down the minutes being logged by starters. Rivers suggested Von Wafer would have first crack and it will be interesting to see if 1) Rivers is confident enough to go with Wafer even if the Celtics don't have a comfortable cushion and 2) How Wafer responds if he does get increased time. Wafer made his strongest impression of the season in last month's visit from the Nets, logging five defensive-minded minutes at the start of the fourth quarter when Boston pulled away (Wafer finished plus-7 in the plus/minus over that short span).