Anthony Gruppuso/US Presswire
Boston's Leandro Barbosa drives to the basket earlier this month against Brooklyn.The Boston Celtics (8-6, 4-3 home) host the Brooklyn Nets (9-4, 2-3 road) on Wednesday evening at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* RONDO & THE REMATCH: Rajon Rondo missed the first meeting between these two teams earlier this month and Boston still put up 97 points while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor (and 53.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc). Scoring shouldn't be an issue, but it's easy to forget the impact Rondo that has on Boston's defense. The Celtics are 6.9 points per 100 possessions better with Rondo on the floor this season, sporting a defensive rating of 111.9 without him. That's an eyesore for a team that led the NBA in defensive rating last season at 98.2. Rondo is also looking to step past John Stockton into sole possession of the second-longest double-digit assist streak in NBA history. He's currently at 37 games and eyeing the NBA record of 46 held by Magic Johnson.
* CELTICS LOOKING TO REBOUND: In the first half of the first meeting, the Nets absolutely dominated the glass, hauling in 15 of their 19 offensive rebounds on the evening (which Brooklyn turned into 19 first-half second-chance points). Boston matched Brooklyn's physicality in the second half and nearly rallied from a nine-point hole, but it won't survive this time around if it doesn't put together 48 minutes of effort on the glass. As Brandon Bass noted on Tuesday: "I think we've got to match their effort and intensity, get off to a good start and we'll be alright." Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the formula for being better on the glass is simple: "The better our defense is, the better we rebound. There's no tricks to it."
* CROSSING THE ATLANTIC: So it's November and no one is going to worry much about the division standings at the moment, but you can't help but notice that Brooklyn -- fresh off a gritty win over the intercity rival Knicks, its third straight -- is sitting atop the Atlantic Division, while Boston is fourth (a half game behind nine-win Philadelphia). Quipped Rivers: "I don't like [a competitive division]. I liked it the other way, personally." He was only half-kidding and later added, "I love the competition, but if we could not have any and just blow by, I'd take that first -- let me just be honest. But, I do enjoy games. I think any time you have hard games, it's good. I don't want every night to be that way. And right now, with us, because we haven't played to where we want to get, obviously, every game's hard. And that's probably going to be the way it is."
* PICK-AND-ROLL DEFENSE IN FOCUS: Boston spent the majority of Tuesday's practice working on its pick-and-roll defense, having been consistently exploited in that area by big men rolling or popping after setting screens. In the first meeting with Brooklyn, the Nets and point guard Deron Williams actually had limited success in the pick-and-roll, relying instead of pure spot-up shooting (and second-chance efforts) to account for their triple-digit output. But Boston can likely expect a heavy dose of pick-and-roll in Wednesday's rematch and the Celtics are hoping to eliminate the errors that have allowed opponents to generate easy offense with their bigs. Boston is actually one of the best teams in the league in limiting pick-and-roll damage when the ball-handler finishes the play, but it encounters trouble when defensive breakdowns allow bigs to roam free to the basket, or pop into wide-open looks.