Gameday Dish: Celtics vs. Nets

The five-time defending Atlantic Division Champion Boston Celtics come to Brooklyn tonight to take on the Nets in the first regular season game between these two franchises.

Coach Doc Rivers’ guys beat the Utah Jazz in Boston last night, 98-93, taking their record to 5-3. PG Rajon Rondo left the contest in the third quarter with a right ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Rondo still managed to dish 10 dimes in his 32nd straight game with at least 10 or more assists, and he currently leads the NBA with 12.5 apg.

First-year Celtic and 2007 6th Man of The Year combo-guard Leandro Barbosa stepped in for Rondo and scored 16 points in the victory. Both the Celts’ and Nets’ coaching staffs are still trying to figure out their starting units and how to use the bench players in their rotations.

Boston has a deep, veteran roster including Jeff Green, who’s back from heart surgery and added 16 points in Wednesday’s win. Bench play will have a significant impact on tonight’s results as well.

The 4-2 Brooklyn squad last played on Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They prevailed 114-101 with Joe Johnson and Deron Williams both scoring season highs of 25 and 26 respectively. First-year Net Johnson had his best game yet of the early season and will continue to improve as he adjusts to his new teammates, especially D-Will.

The C’s beat the Nets in all three matchups last season and have won 18 of the last 20 games. However, this Brooklyn incarnation is very different than the 2011-2012 NJ version.

Fifth-year center Brook Lopez is healthy, and he’s averaging 17.5 ppg and 2.3 bpg so far after missing 61 of 66 games last year due to various injuries. Unfortunately, do-everything forward Gerald Wallace will miss his sixth straight game due to a sprained left ankle.

Though it’s early in the season, tonight’s matchup could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals. Join me, Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager at 8PM ET on TNT to watch two top teams in the East ignite what is sure to be a long rivalry between these division foes.

USA Basketball: USA Narrowly Escapes Brazil in Their Toughest Test of the Tournament to Date

Team USA was fortunate to hang on for a 70-68 win over Brazil today, making it three in a row. USA leads Group B in the preliminary round of the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

Although Kevin Durant had another huge 27-point performance, this was the USA’s sloppiest showing so far this summer. They had no ball movement offensively; they went to one-on-one play way too often; and they did not bring the same defensive intensity we saw in their previous matchups.

Credit Brazil for having an outstanding game and making huge shots. They put forth a great effort, but looks like the fatigue factor may have set in during the second half as Brazil didn’t come close to making the same number shots as in the first half. They certainly could have used the help of Anderson Varejão, who continues to rest a sprained right ankle.

Game 3 was a nail-biter up until the very end, when Leandro Barbosa missed a layup at the buzzer that would have tied up the game and forced overtime. Team USA’s lack of defensive intensity combined with the high number of turnovers nearly cost them the game. But thanks to their perseverance and a little luck, USA remains undefeated.

Fortunately Team USA can use their day off tomorrow to regroup and get their legs back under them before facing Iran on Wednesday. And the fledgling team will get a couple more international games under its belt before facing some of their more dangerous adversaries.

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