Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers thinks his three stars are ready for their much-anticipated trip to the playoffs.

They'll only have to wait one more game to find out for sure.

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are expected to be in the lineup - though it's unclear how much they'll play - as the Celtics play one final tuneup Wednesday at home against the New Jersey Nets.

Since Boston clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, Rivers has carefully rested his trio of All-Stars as they prepare for their first trip to the postseason as teammates.

After they each played three quarters in a 99-89 win at Atlanta on Saturday, Boston's fourth-year coach proclaimed the trio prepared for the playoffs.

The Celtics will open their first-round playoff series at home against Atlanta this weekend.

Rivers said they would play in one of the final two games, and Garnett, Pierce and Allen sat out Monday's 99-93 win at New York. They'll likely play limited minutes Wednesday as the Celtics (65-16) look to win their 35th home game of the season.

Boston's reserves should again see significant playing time, something that has helped veteran point guard Sam Cassell and other players get ready for the playoffs. Cassell has at least 20 points in each of the last two games - his highest totals since joining the Celtics.

"It ain't easy at my age. But I'm getting a nice little rhythm right now," the 38-year-old Cassell said after Saturday's win. "I'm understanding where I can fit in on this team offensively. Defensively, it's still a challenge for me."

Defense has been the Celtics' greatest strength this season. Boston, which will try to improve by 42 wins - more than half a season - from last season's 24-58 record, will finish the season leading the NBA in opponents' field goal percentage (41.9 percent).

New Jersey's fortunes turned in the other direction. The Nets will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2000-01 season, which was also the last time the Celtics swept New Jersey. Boston has won the first three meetings of 2007-08 by an average of 14 points.

The Nets (34-47) matched a season low with just 69 points in their previous visit to Boston on Nov. 14.

With little at stake as the season winds down, New Jersey had struggled, dropping six of seven. But the Nets have won consecutive games, including a 112-108 overtime win over Charlotte in their home finale on Tuesday.

They'll look to close the season on their first three-game winning streak since they beat Charlotte, Dallas and Minnesota on Feb. 8-12.


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