It’s not often in the NBA that a team gets an immediate chance for payback, but the Nets will have that opportunity Friday afternoon at Barclays Center when they get a rematch with the Celtics less than 48 hours after their 121-110 loss Wednesday in Boston. Coach Kenny Atkinson likened it to a playoff series, which could happen next spring if injured point guard Kyrie Irving and the rest of the shorthanded Nets can get healthy.
“I love these because you really get to look at the team,” Atkinson said. “It’s almost like a mini-playoff. I wish we had a practice. But you can make adjustments, see where you can make some changes. I always like this type of mini-series.”
The Nets had no scheduled practice on the Thanksgiving holiday after playing three games in the previous four nights. Atkinson said Irving remains day-to-day with a right shoulder impingement, DeAndre Jordan (left ankle soreness) is in the same category and Caris LeVert (right thumb surgery) is out for several more weeks.
Describing Irving’s status, Atkinson said, “We’re re-evaluating him every day. It’s ongoing, checking up on him.”
Irving missed his seventh straight game in Boston, where the fans spent the entire game engaging in derogatory chants directed toward him for leaving the Celtics to sign with the Nets in free agency. Later Wednesday night, Irving responded with a post on his Instagram account.
“It happens all the time and Tonight just shows how Sports / Entertainment will always be ignorant and intrusive,” he wrote. “It’s one big SHOW that means very little in the real world.”
Irving went on to criticize the jeering crowd for “defacing who people truly are as PEOPLE.” He spoke about the importance of mental health over playing professional sports to please fans, which was a reference to his admission that he was upset by the death of his grandfather last fall and that it affected his play.
Irving ended it by writing, “Don’t fall for the Game that’s played in front of you as Entertainment, it’ll never be as serious as dealing with LIFE.”
The Nets will hold Irving out until he is completely healthy, but center Jarrett Allen, who had his sixth double-double in his past eight games, said he feels certain Irving would welcome a chance to face the Celtics.
“I know he’s a competitive guy,” Allen said. “I haven’t talked to him personally, but he loves taking the challenge. He would love to be there [Friday].”
The Nets (9-9) must do a better job of containing Irving’s replacement, Kemba Walker, who scored 39 points and shot 6-for-10 from three-point range for the Celtics (13-4). “Kemba went off tonight,” Allen said. “We’re going to look at the tape for how to contain him, and we’re just going to go at him.”
Spencer Dinwiddie also said the Nets are eager for the rematch. “If somebody beats you, you want to go beat them back,” he said.
“Obviously, we took their best punch here in a hard-fought game most of the night. If we protect home court, 1-1.”