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NBA Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, February 27th (All times eastern)

New Jersey Nets (5-52) at Boston Celtics (36-20), 1 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Expect the Atlantic Division's remake of Beauty and the Beast this afternoon as the first place Boston Celtics host the cellar- dwelling New Jersey Nets.

The Celtics play the beauty is this version, having beaten the ugly-duckling Nets 12 straight times. A win this afternoon against New Jersey, which is a miserable 2-27 on the road and still on pace the challenge the NBA's worst team ever, the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, would give Boston a series sweep over the Nets for the third consecutive year.

The C's are cruising toward another division title but stumbled in their last outing on Thursday against fellow Eastern Conference power Cleveland. LeBron James scored 36, and Mo Williams tallied 14 of his 19 points in the final quarter in that one, as the Cavaliers overcame a thumb injury to Shaquille O'Neal and surged in the second half for a 108-88 win over Boston in Beantown.

Boston had beaten the Cavs nine straight times at home, including the playoffs.

"You get the monkey off your back, don't look too far into it though," James said. "We played well enough to win, but we have another game tomorrow against Toronto and we hope to play the same way."

Ray Allen had 21 points to lead the Celtics, who had won four of their last five games entering Thursday. Rajon Rondo contributed 19 points and 11 assists, while Kevin Garnett ended with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Boston played without star forward Paul Pierce, who missed his second straight game due to a sore right thumb. The Celtics missed him in a big way, as they went just 3-of-21 shooting in the last quarter.

"We got everything we wanted," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I really thought the difference of the two halves was in the first half Cleveland played like us. The ball didn't move for them offensively; they were a one pass, shot offense. We were attacking and we were multiple pass, multiple pick In the second half, we became them and they attacked us."

Pierce, who is also battling the flu, remains up in the air for this afternoon's game but it's doubtful Rivers will rush him back with New Jersey on the docket.

The Nets nightmare season continued on Tuesday when Brandon Roy scored 28 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 27, as Portland washed away an ugly loss to Utah on Sunday with a 102-93 victory against New Jersey.

Devin Harris and Courtney Lee both provided 28 points in yet another loss for the Nets, who set a new franchise-low with their eighth straight defeat at home Tuesday.

Brook Lopez continued to be one of the team's lone bright spots in an otherwise lost season, posting 17 points and 10 rebounds.

"They took advantage of our defense early on, got some transition buckets and the intensity wasn't there," said Harris. "We fought back, but you can't give a team that big of a head start."

02/27 10:39:37 ET

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