Game Preview: Bucks at Celtics

Kevin Garnett

The Celtics will attempt to establish Kevin Garnett in the post Friday night.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

BOSTON – TD Garden will be flooded with green when the Boston Celtics (0-1) open up their home schedule against the Milwaukee Bucks (0-0) at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season. The Celtics are coming off of a tough loss to Miami on Opening Night, while the Bucks will be playing in their very first game of the season.

Boston didn’t meet expectations in its first game against Miami, particularly on the defensive end of the court. Defense was the main topic of interest after Tuesday’s loss and at practice on Thursday.

“We’re going to be good, but I think our on-ball defense was average because our help defense was worse,” Doc Rivers said on Thursday. “If everybody’s up guarding their own man and there’s no help, guys see gaps and they take it.”

Several Celtics players referenced communication as the main defensive issue. Kevin Garnett has been the vocal leader at that end for the past five seasons, but he needs the rest of his teammates to communicate as well. Boston’s 10 new faces must follow suit if the team wants to become a great defensive team.

Milwaukee is a team that wants to play strong defense, too. Its head coach, Scott Skiles, has been defensive-minded since the day he became an NBA head coach in 1999. From what Rajon Rondo has seen, the Bucks are beginning to buy into what Skiles is preaching.

“They’re a scrappy team,” Rondo said after Thursday’s practice. “They play with a lot of intensity on defense.”

However, it’s difficult to be a great defensive team when your roster is comprised of offensive-minded players. The Bucks’ top two players are Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, both of whom love to put the ball through the basket. Jennings and Ellis each attempted at least 17.0 shots per game last season with Milwaukee. In comparison, not a single Boston player attempted more than 14.6 shots a game in 2011-12.

Skiles will continue his convince his offensive-minded players to buy into his defensive strategies during the team’s first game of the season tonight. The Celtics, on the other hand, want their communication to ring loud so that they can return to their previous defensive ways.

Tonight’s contest may not be a shootout like Boston’s first game of the season was, but it’s sure to be exciting nonetheless. After all, NBA basketball is returning to TD Garden, and that’s always a good thing.

Transition Defense

Another reason that Boston’s defense struggled was its inability to execute in transition. That is one area that stood out to Rivers as he watched the game on tape.

“We didn’t get back,” he said. “We didn’t ever set our defense.

“I would have loved to say it was Miami’s great speed, and they have all that, but if you don’t get back on defense you can’t play defense, and to me that was the No. 1 thing.”

Milwaukee has great speed, too. There is no doubt that the Bucks will attempt to push the ball in transition tonight. The C’s will need to hustle back on defense, stop the ball, communicate, and then fan out to the rest of Milwaukee’s offensive players.

No Fool’s Gold Offense

You might think that the Celtics had a strong offensive performance with their 107 points against the Heat, but Rivers begs to differ.

“[Miami] gave up 107 points to a team that was awful offensively, which is an amazing thing to say,” Rivers said. “You shoot 52 percent, score 107 points, and you know that was awful offense from us.”

Awful? That’s a strong statement. But as Rivers said, it was all fool’s gold offense. The Celtics bailed themselves out with strong shooting after not executing their true offensive sets.

They’ll want to change that tonight. Offensive execution will most certainly be a point of emphasis.

Establish KG

Boston had an advantage on the post Tuesday night with Garnett, yet they failed establish that advantage by getting him the ball.

“We didn’t get it to him enough, and Kevin didn’t look for it enough and demand it,” Rivers said. “That’s on us. That’s on all of us.”

The C’s will have a similar opportunity tonight against the Bucks. Milwaukee does not have any bulk down low. The Bucks’ top post defender is Samuel Dalembert, who is nearly an exact replica of Garnett in terms of body structure. If KG establishes good post pophosition and the Celtics feed him the ball in good spots, Garnett should be able to successfully score down low. That would open things up for the rest of the offense as well.