Celtics' Goal Tonight is to Improve, Not Win

MILAN – Preseason game No. 2 is on tap tonight for the Boston Celtics. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. local time tonight in Milan (noon EST) against Italian team EA7 Emporio Armani.

Although Boston is winless to this point in the preseason, the team made it clear after this morning’s shootaround that it isn’t overly concerned with grabbing its first win tonight. Heading back to New England with a 1-1 record would be nice, but it’s certainly not imperative.

Garnett, Kurz

Kevin Garnett and Rob Kurz have a laugh as they walk into Sunday morning's shootaround .
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

“I don’t know what a win does. Do we get a trophy now?” joked Doc Rivers. “Really, you always want to win, but I don’t think it matters one way or the other.”

The rotations and minutes that we’ll see tonight will be similar to those that we saw during Friday night’s loss to Fenerbahce Ulker. However, those rotations and minutes are far different from the ones we’ll see during the regular season. That fact alone is the main reason why the Celtics won’t fret if they happen to fall yet again.

“I told our guys, ‘You’re only playing a certain amount of minutes.’ It’s not like they’re playing (real) game minutes,” said Rivers. “Kevin (Garnett) played 15 minutes and that would never happen in a real game.”

With no mention of Rivers’ comments from reporters, Paul Pierce echoed his coach’s thoughts minutes later.

“You understand it’s preseason,” said Pierce. “You want to win, but Doc isn’t going to be playing rotations like he would probably play them in the regular season.”

With that being said, the ultimate goal for the Celtics tonight is to improve. They struggled in many facets of their game Friday night and are concentrating on cleaning up those mistakes.

“The important thing is to get better,” Pierce said. “Win or lose, when you look at the film and when you play the game, you want to continue to grow; you want to continue to build.”

There are two specific areas where the Celtics want to improve on tonight. Chief among the issues that must be addressed is the fact that the Celtics committed 25 turnovers Friday night. That number won’t work in the NBA if this team wants to win games and compete for a championship. They must take care of the ball.

“We turned the ball over 25 times and there was really no ball pressure,” said Rivers. “We were just throwing the ball. We were very sloppy. So we just have to be more disciplined offensively.”

Rivers also wants to see the team improve its defense, particularly on the perimeter. Bo McCalebb knifed through the Celtics’ defense during Friday night’s contest. His penetration threw Boston’s defense out of sync, and Rivers doesn’t want to see that type of action again tonight.

“I just want them to defend better at the guard spot,” Rivers remarked. “I thought our guards had no physicality in the game the other night. I understand it was the first exhibition game, but we have to establish our habits now so when we get to the season we have them.”

Marked improvement in those two categories is clearly the goal for tonight. A win in front of the Celtics’ Italian fans in Milan would just be icing on the cake.