It's been well over three months since the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics met, but extra intensity can still be expected when these teams close their season series.
The Nets are closing in on home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and can capture the season series for the first time since 2005-06 with a victory Wednesday night on the road against the Celtics.
Brooklyn (45-32) won two meetings with Boston (40-37) in November, with three ejections taking place in the second one. These teams then met Dec. 25, but there was little Christmas cheer on display with a skirmish in the fourth quarter that featured four technical fouls in the Celtics' 93-76 victory.
"You kind of feel some sort of chippiness between the two teams to be honest with you when we match up against Brooklyn," Boston forward Paul Pierce said.
The team that has won the rebounding battle has won all three matchups, and the Celtics are wary of Brooklyn frontcourt players Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche and Brook Lopez. That trio has combined for 75 rebounds in the season series.
"They're a big basketball team, Lopez is a monster so that's the challenge," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "And they are physical, they are tough, they're veterans - they match us in that. So usually those are the type of games that are fun. I don't call them chippy, I call them fun."
Lopez and Evans keyed a 104-83 home victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday. Lopez had 29 points and 11 boards while Evans finished with 17 and 24 - two shy of his career high - as the Nets held a 67-34 cushion on the glass.
"It isn't all about the way you look, how tall you are, how physical you look," Evans said. "It's all about that heart. I'd rather play a physical game than a pretty game. The more physical, the better it is. I like contact. I don't like running away."
The Nets, who took three of four from Boston seven seasons ago, lead Chicago by three games for home-court advantage in the first round.
The Celtics lead Milwaukee by three games as they try to cement the No. 7 seed in the postseason and avoid a first-round meeting with Miami. They are 1 1/2 games behind sixth-place Atlanta and two in back of the Bulls.
Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo rested all of his starters for the fourth quarter Tuesday, with this matchup in mind. The Nets are 6-5 in the second half of a back-to-back set after the first game was at home.
Deron Williams was only needed to score 11 points after totaling 62 over his previous two games for Brooklyn.
"The way they have been playing, they are one of the top-four teams in the East," Pierce said. "Deron Williams is playing his best basketball right now."
Unlike the previous matchups, Williams won't have to deal with the currently injured Rajon Rondo. He could see time against defensive-minded guard Avery Bradley, who missed the first two months of the season with shoulder problems.