Game Preview: Celtics at Nets

BOSTON – It may only be a preseason game, but that doesn’t take away the intrigue from tonight’s 7:30 p.m. matchup between the Boston Celtics (1-3) and Brooklyn Nets (2-1) at the Barclays Center.

Tonight’s contest will be the first time these teams meet since completing a blockbuster trade on July 12. That transaction sent longtime Celtics captain Paul Pierce, along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, to the Nets in exchange for a package that included Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans.

News broke on Monday that Pierce will participate in tonight’s game, but Garnett and Terry will not. Garnett played 15 minutes during Brooklyn’s 30-point victory over the 76ers last night. Nets head coach Jason Kidd is not yet comfortable with throwing him onto the floor in back-to-backs. Garnett commented on missing tonight’s game, as well as his current back-to-back rules, when he spoke to the media on Monday.

“It wasn’t my decision, so that’s where I’m going to leave that,” Garnett said. “I am trying to be as positive as I can be. This is not up to me, and I’m being positive. I’m trying to listen and go with the plan that was laid out for me and being positive with that.”

While Garnett sits out tonight’s game for precautionary reasons, Terry will miss the contest due to left knee soreness. He has yet to play in the preseason.

Despite Garnett and Terry missing tonight’s game, there is likely to be a slight rush of emotions when Pierce takes the floor. This will be the first time in Celtics history that the team will play against him.

The Celtics were asked about that fact Monday afternoon. Several players noted that they’re appreciative of what Pierce and KG did while they were in Boston, but Boston is approaching this game with one goal: to get better.

Boston did as much Saturday night in Manchester, N.H., when it grabbed its first win of the preseason. The Celtics defeated the Knicks 111-81 in front of a strong crowd at Verizon Wireless Arena. Six Celtics scored in double-figures, led by 15 points from Kelly Olynyk and 13 points apiece from Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks.

Improvements were also seen at the other end of the court. The Celtics limited the Knicks to just 33.3 percent shooting in the game, including a 3-of-18 performance from long range. Only three Knicks scored in double-figures.

Maintaining a similar level of success tonight will be a difficult task for Boston. Brooklyn is a very balanced team that is coming off of a dominant performance last night in Philadelphia. The Nets had six players score in double-figures during that game, and five of them scored at least 17 points. Mirza Teletovic and Chris Johnson led the way with 21 points apiece.

Brooklyn will get a boost from Paul Pierce, but it will be playing without several key players. In addition to Garnett and Terry’s absence, the Nets may be missing both Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) and Deron Williams (right ankle).

Those injuries are significant for the Nets but they will not take away from the intrigue of tonight’s game. This is Boston versus Brooklyn, and, in turn, this is the Celtics versus Paul Pierce.