Celtics-Nets preview: How will KG hold up?

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Celtics-Nets preview: How will KG hold up?

BROOKLYN, NY - The health of Kevin Garnett is always a major concern for Doc Rivers.

It's an even bigger issue now that the C's are on the back end of a stretch in which they play eight games within a 12-day span that includes tonight's nationally-televised matchup at Brooklyn.

Aware of this, Rivers went into Wednesday's game against Utah wanting to limit Garnett's minutes.

Instead, he wound up playing just under 30 minutes, his norm this season. That tally included playing every minute of the fourth quarter which was a first for Garnett this season.

"Honestly, Kevin talked me into that," Rivers said. "I had no intention of playing him more than 25 minutes (against Utah)."

Garnett's presence in the fourth quarter was a key to the win, especially on the boards where he grabbed six of his team-high eight rebounds.

But having gone such a long stretch with no break and then turning around just 24 hours later to play on the road against one of the Eastern Conference's better centers, it leaves Rivers unsure of what he'll get from his defensive anchor tonight.

"We won the (Utah) game, so I'm happy about that," Rivers said. "Check with me after the (Brooklyn) game."

In addition to Garnett's impact, here are a few other keys to tonight's game as the C's try to extend their current winning streak to four in a row.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Nets coach Avery Johnson has the reputation of being a defensive-minded coach, and it's certainly looking that way early on with the Nets. One of the reasons they rank in the league's top 10 in fewest points allowed, is because of the way they defend 3-point shots. Simply put, nobody is doing it any better. Opponents are getting off just 16.5 3-point attempts per game which is the second-fewest in the league. Even more important? Brooklyn opponents are making a league-low 5.3 per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Keith Bogans: With Rondo (right ankle) questionable and Garnett potentially gassed after last night, Pierce has to dominate this matchup. Bogans is filling in for Gerald Wallace who suffered a left ankle sprain and has missed Brooklyn's last five games with the injury.

PLAYER TO WATCH: For the potential highlight-worthy dunk is reason enough to keep an eye on Jeff Green. But he's starting to show more consistency in his play of late, especially on offense. He's coming off a season-high 16 points which played a pivotal role in Boston extending its winning streak to three straight following Wednesday's victory over Utah.

STAT TO TRACK: Getting into the paint early and often will once again be a chief objective for the Boston Celtics in tonight's game. More often than not, that leads to a nice run of free throws. This season, Boston ranks third and fourth in free throws made (20.5) and taken (25.8), respectively. Meanwhile, Boston faces a Brooklyn team that has limited opponents to just 13.8 free throws made per game on 18 attempts which ranks second and third, respectively, in the NBA.

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.