Game Preview: Nets at Celtics (preseason)

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

By Marc D'Amico
October 16, 2012

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett will return to the lineup tonight and see Brook Lopez for the first time in a Brooklyn uniform.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (1-3) will host the Brooklyn Nets (2-0) for the first time ever at 7:30 p.m. tonight in TD Garden. Both teams will be playing in the second night of a back-to-back, but they took drastically different approaches to the front end of those sets.

Doc Rivers chose not to play Kevin Garnett Monday night in Philadelphia and no one on Boston’s roster logged more than 27 minutes of action. Paul Pierce played just 21 minutes and Rajon Rondo was on the court for a team-high 27 minutes. Rivers’ goal was to have his core ready for tonight’s game against Brooklyn, its first home game of the preseason.

On the other hand, the Nets’ head coach, Avery Johnson, was much more interested in his team’s game against the Washington Wizards than he is in tonight’s game against the C’s. His two highest paid players, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, played 38 and 31 minutes respectively last night against Washington.

Johnson used a nine-man rotation throughout the game. That’s similar to what Nets fans will see in the regular season. Johnson used such a rotation in an attempt to win the team’s first home game in the Barclays Center.

“I just thought it was important,” Johnson said of his team’s home opener. “I thought it was nice that our fans would go home with a good feeling about our team.”

Johnson’s goal was achieved thanks to a 98-88 win over the Wizards. He sent Williams and Gerald Wallace back into the game in the final four minutes of regulation in order to secure the team’s first home victory.

Tonight’s contest won’t be the first game ever played in TD Garden, but it will be the first home game for this particular Celtics team. That seems to hold importance with Rivers. He rested his players last night with the goal of playing tonight’s game at full tilt.

With that being said, Boston is likely to experience much different results tonight than it did on Monday against Philadelphia. The team committed 21 turnovers during its 107-75 loss to the Sixers.

Many of the lineups Doc Rivers used were ones that we saw for the very first time. The starting lineup of Rondo, Pierce, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger and Darko Milicic was the fourth different starting lineup Boston has used during its four preseason games.

Tonight’s contest will likely feature a version of the Celtics that will be much closer to what we’ll see in the regular season. Garnett is expected to be back in the lineup, and Rivers may choose to shorten his bench with only four preseason games remaining to hammer out his rotations.

That sounds a lot like the approach Johnson took with the Nets last night. Brooklyn wound up grabbing a victory in its first home game of the preseason, and the Celtics will be looking to duplicate that result tonight.

Take Care of the Ball

There are plenty of excuses that the Boston Celtics can throw out for their lackluster performance Monday night in Philly. They were playing without their emotional leader, they were using odd lineups, and players were rotating in and out of the game on a consistent basis. All of that will result in continuity issues, but 21 turnovers are just too many.

If the Celtics want to be successful this season they’ll need to be able to take care of the basketball. They haven’t done that thus far in the preseason, as they’ve averaged a whopping 19.75 turnovers per game. With the likelihood of a consistent and tightened lineup tonight, Boston should take a step in the right direction when it comes to taking care of the ball.

3-Point Shooting

Another area in which the Celtics have struggled this preseason is 3-point shooting. They are making just 35.8 percent of their 3s through four games, which would rank in the middle of the pack compared to last season’s league stats. Last night, the C’s shot an ugly 4-for-17 from downtown.

There are three players who will be looked at to carry the load this season when it comes to 3-point shooting. Pierce, Lee and Jason Terry are going to get the majority of Boston’s looks from downtown. That trio shot 2-for-4 from 3-point range last night. The hope is that they can continue that shooting rate with several more attempts throughout each game.

Pick-and-Roll Defense

Garnett is one of the greatest pick-and-roll defenders of all time. He almost single-handedly takes the play away from opponents and pushes them to run different sets. However, without Garnett on the floor, Boston has struggled to defend the pick-and-roll this preseason.

New York exploited the C’s in this area Saturday night and then Philadelphia did the same last night. Boston won’t be a dominant defensive force if it cannot straighten out its pick-and-roll defense. That must be cleaned up, and they’ll have a great opportunity to fix it against Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.