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Monday, December 24, 2012
W2W4: Nets vs. Celtics

By Mike Mazzeo

If their first two games this season are any indication, the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics are beginning to cultivate what could be a fun rivalry for years to come.

The two teams will meet for a third time on Christmas Day at Barclays Center (Noon ET, ESPN). Here's what we'll be watching for:

BRAWL STARS? The last time they met, a fight broke out in the second quarter, which led to the ejections of Rajon Rondo, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace.

Rondo ended up with a two-game suspension, while Wallace and Kevin Garnett were both fined for their actions. The Nets downplayed any bad blood or animosity between the two teams. Still, both could use a win, so expect the intensity to be ratcheted up a notch. Brooklyn (14-12) is just 4-8 since improving to 2-0 against the Celtics (13-13) on Nov. 28 in Boston.

BROOKLYN'S BACKCOURT: Over the past seven games, Joe Johnson is averaging a team-leading 20.7 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field, including 43.6 percent from 3-point territory. Over the past five games, Deron Williams is averaging 17.4 points, 6.2 assists and 3.6 turnovers and shooting 44.6 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from 3.

D-Will's confidence has been steadily climbing of late. He hit a huge triple late in the team's 95-92 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday afternoon.

NET OFFENSIVE: Nets coach Avery Johnson said he threw out 40 percent of the team's offensive playbook last week. With that also came a change in the starting lineup, as Humphries was benched in favor of Keith Bogans, moving Wallace to power forward.

Wallace had 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals Sunday and was one of six Nets to score in double figures. Brooklyn's offense had a lot more continuity in the victory over Philadelphia, many players said. The KG-Crash matchup at the four spot should be a fun one to watch.

STATS COOL: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Nets defeated the Celtics 117-81, back in 2002 in the only other meeting between the two teams on Christmas. Boston is just 11-17 all-time on Christmas, while the Nets are 4-3. The Nets are seeking their first three-game winning streak in the series since winning four straight in 2006.