Though the stripped-down Boston Celtics might not win many games this season, first-year coach Brad Stevens is confident they can be consistently competitive.
Looking to avoid a third straight 0-2 start, the Celtics make their home debut Friday night against a Milwaukee Bucks team already dealing with injuries in the backcourt.
With Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn and Rajon Rondo recovering from knee surgery, Boston likely won't have an easy time this season with few marquee names and a first-time NBA coach.
The Celtics, though, won't roll over, as was evident during Wednesday's 93-87 loss at Toronto in the season opener. Jeff Green had 25 points as Boston shot 48.5 percent and overcame a 16-point hole to tie the game after three quarters.
"I think we can all rest assured we've got a team that will fight and we've got a team that will compete," Stevens said. "And (if) we can shore up a couple of those mistakes, maybe we can come out the other end of it."
Offensive rebounding again appears to be an area that could plague Boston.
The Celtics, whose 7.9 offensive boards per game over the previous three seasons ranks worst in the NBA, were outrebounded 19-7 in that area and 48-33 overall Wednesday. Kris Humphries had a team-high nine rebounds, two on the offensive end.
"When they broke us down, they crushed us on the glass," Stevens said. "They shot 20 more field goals than us. It's going to be hard to win a game when that happens."
The Celtics were outrebounded 51-36 on the offensive end while going 1-3 against the Bucks last season. Though Boston has dropped two in a row in the series, the last three games have been decided by five or fewer points. In the most recent meeting, Milwaukee won 99-94 in overtime at Boston on Dec. 21.
With Brandon Jennings traded to Detroit and Monta Ellis in Dallas, newcomers Luke Ridnour, Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo are expected to solidify the Bucks' backcourt. However, Ridnour could miss a second straight game with a sore back and Knight's status is uncertain after he suffered a strained right hamstring early in Wednesday's season-opening 90-83 loss at New York.
The Bucks, though, rallied from a 25-point deficit to lead by one with 3:13 remaining before the Knicks closed with a 10-2 run.
"My message to the guys at the halftime was I didn't care about whether we won or lost the game, I cared about us playing the way I know we're capable of playing," first-year Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "Guys came back. Had a chance to win and just didn't make the plays at the end."
Gary Neal had 16 points and Zaza Pachulia added 13 with 11 rebounds as the Bucks held a 54-20 advantage in bench scoring.
Fourth-year center Larry Sanders signed a four-year contract extension after posting career highs last season with 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and finishing second in the league at 2.8 blocks per game, but foul trouble limited him to four boards, one block and no points in 12 minutes Wednesday.
He averaged 15.0 points and 16.0 rebounds in the last three games against the Celtics.
The Associated Press News Service
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