It's the Celts' home opener, and the heat's still on

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It's the Celts' home opener, and the heat's still on

With all the fanfare and embarrassment of Opening Night out of the way, its time for the Celtics to get down to business. Tonight, theyll host the Mil-ay-wa-kay Bucks at the Garden, and in a weird way, theres far more on the line than there was on Tuesday in Miami.

Thats because on Tuesday, the Celtics had nothing to lose. This explains why, in the aftermath of the ugly loss, we all spent far more time obsessing over KG snubbing Ray and Rondo fouling Wade than we did anything pertaining to the actual game. I mean, what were you going to say? They lost to the best team in the NBA, playing with a roster of guys who barely know each other, and with a Kevin Garnett who clearly needs a little time before finding his rhythm within the flow of regular-season basketball. Okay. Whatever. Its over.

But in terms of tonight, the Bucks are obviously not the Heat. The Bucks are a franchise thats registered only one winning season over the last 10 years and hasnt won a playoff series since some dude named Ray Allen led them to the Conference Finals back in 2001. This year, theyd be happy with an eighth seed. The bar isnt set very high.

With Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings in the starting backcourt, the Bucks will push the tempo tonight, which should allow the Celtics to spread their newfound young and athletic wings. It will give Rajon Rondo a chance to run; perhaps more importantly, it will give Jeff Green a chance to run and shake off the rust from his Miami mess. However, Milwaukee also arrives with some significant size. Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, Joel Przbilla and Ekpe Udoh all stand 6-foot-10 or taller and will all figure into Scott Skiles' rotation, which might force Doc Rivers to make some adjustments. (Chris Wilcox, anyone?) The Bucks big men also present an interesting dynamic within their own team, between the run-and-gun guards and the more stationary front court. Merging those two styles will be one of the toughest tasks on Skiles' plate this year.

But regardless of how the Bucks attack Boston, the Celtics should be able to handle it. If they just play their game, if they execute on offense and make the basic rotations on defense, they should win. They will win. And if thats the case, everyone can move on from the Miami loss with the confidence that things are moving in the right direction. Meanwhile, the Bucks will assume the role of the Celtics from earlier in the week. What can we say? We lost on the road to one of the best teams in basketball . . . in their home opener!

But in the event of a Celtics loss, there will be no escape from the disappointment; no hiding behind the drama that comes with flagrant fouls and reunions gone wrong. If they lose, all anyone will want to talk about is why and how and what is wrong with this team. It will be obscenely early to get carried away, but I dont think that will stop us.

And thats that. Opening night at the Garden. The hype leading up to tipoff might not match what we all experienced on Tuesday, but the aftertaste of a loss will be far more sour.

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