BOSTON — Kemba Walker has been a star for a while. But now Jayson Tatum has become one as well — a 1-2 pick-and-roll punch that the Nets may have to deal with Tuesday.
“[We] know them really well, obviously. Know their style of play and what they do,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Tatum, Kemba obviously, all those pick-and-rolls you have to deal with. It’ll test our physicality again, a game where we have to bring it from a competitive, physical standpoint.”
The Nets have dropped their past seven games at TD Garden, including 121-110 on Nov. 27 when the Boston fans spewed profanities about Kyrie Irving — who was injured and not even present. The Nets bounced back to beat Celtics 112-107 two days later at Barclays Center.
Irving has opted for season-ending shoulder surgery. But after Walker — averaging 21.8 points and five assists — missed the past five games, he has been listed as probable to make his return from left knee soreness against Nets. Tatum is questionable with an illness.
“Kemba’s got the best breaks in the league. That’s why he’s always crossing people. Obviously he’s quick and shifty, but his ability to stop on a dime is what gets so many people falling,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “He shoots at a high level and adds a dimension to their offense when he’s healthy, been an All-Star for several times. So really good player.”
That health is key, with Walker expected back for the first time since Feb. 13. So how will the 6-foot-6 Dinwiddie deal with a jitterbug who can stop on an atom? He paraphrased “The Longest Yard,” saying, “I’m so fast, I make fast people look not fast” while adding he will leverage his own advantages.
“You just play him with the utmost respect,” Dinwiddie said. “At the same time you understand the advantages you have in length and speed, and you use your advantages where you can and try to dictate as much as possible, but understand how good of a player he is.”
Tatum, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is on the brink of going from good to great. After averaging 15.7 points and six rebounds last season, he has taken a quantum leap up to 23.5 points and 7.1 boards.
“He’s played really well as of late, but he’s been playing at an All-Star level all season. He’s super-efficient, super-aggressive, but as of late, he’s been a really difficult matchup for a lot of people,” said Joe Harris, who will likely start matched up on Tatum but get plenty of help.
“It’s not just going to be one person on him. There’ll be a lot of bodies on him over the course of the evening. … You’re not going to prevent him from getting his averages, but you just try to make everything tough and make him as inefficient as possible.”
Garrett Temple (right shoulder sprain) is questionable for Tuesday’s game.
Caris LeVert didn’t get X-rays on his contused hand and practiced fully on Monday.