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Bucks vs. Celtics Preview: Bucks open season in Boston

Scott Skiles' club opens its season against the Celtics, just two days after Doc Rivers' club was humbled by the Heat in Miami's home opener.

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2012/2013 NBA Season
0-1 (0-0 home)


0-0 (0-0 road)

November 2, 2012
TD Garden, Boston, MA
6:30 PM Central
FS Wisconsin / 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass
Probable Starters
Rajon Rondo PG Brandon Jennings
Courtney Lee SG Monta Ellis
Paul Pierce SF Tobias Harris
Brandon Bass PF Ersan Ilyasova
Kevin Garnett C Samuel Dalembert

On the Celtics: Celtics Blog | Red's Army | SB Nation Boston

Celtics update. The Celtics opened their season on the road in Miami on Wednesday, watching the Heat receive their championship rings (that had to be fun) before watching LeBron James and old "friend" Ray Allen fire the Heat to a 120-107 win. SB Nation's Paul Flannery offers up a telling synopsis:

For all their new versatile personnel the C's are playing catch-up to Miami's defined lack of definition. Terry was off, Green appeared lost in a 2011 daze and only Lee looked like he belonged. They made a decent show of it for a while before getting their doors blown off in the third quarter and rallied only when James was back in the locker room getting treated for cramps. If you're living on a Leandro Barbosa hot streak, you're living on borrowed time.

Doc Rivers' team allowed 31 points in each of the first three quarters on Wednesday, a surprising figure for a team that has made its living on the defensive end throughout the Big Three (amorphously defined) era. Needless to say, the Celtics of Wednesday night didn't look like a team that led the league in defensive efficiency in 11/12, and missing defensive ace Avery Bradley is presumably part of the story. But we figure to see a more focused and disciplined Celtics team on Friday, which means it's more important than ever for the Bucks to clear the defensive boards and look to push the tempo.

Who starts? While Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova are more or less givens, Skiles once again refused to divulge who would start at small forward and center on Friday. At the three, Tobias Harris started every preseason game, so it would be something of a reversal for Skiles to switch things up now. Not that Harris was great in the exhibition season, but Skiles' options are fairly limited with Mike Dunleavy preferred off the bench and Marquis Daniels being...well, Marquis Daniels. Still, if ex-Celtic Daniels was ever going to see extended minutes at small forward it would probably be tonight. Not only are the Bucks facing a team with a quality small forward (that Paul Pierece fellow), but it's a guy that Daniels spent the past two seasons practicing against. I'd be surprised if Daniels didn't see a fair bit of run tonight for that reason alone.

Skiles was more experimental with his big men lineups during the preseason, with Samuel Dalembert and Larry Sanders splitting the starting duties at center. Ekpe Udoh might also figure into the equation at some point, but for now it seems like a two-horse race between Sanders and Dalembert.

So who has the edge? Dalembert entered camp as the presumptive starter, but Sanders was generally more impactful over the past few weeks and finally seems to be in Skiles' good graces, in spite of a one-game suspension for an undisclosed conduct issue. Still, Sanders' astronomical foul rate typically prevents him from playing major minutes and he doesn't carry Dalembert's proven credentials as a rebounder either. How the two competed in practice this week will likely be a major factor in Skiles' ultimate decision, and with a full week since the Bucks' last preseason game we can assume Skiles has had plenty of time to chew it over.

The Celtics started Garnett at center for much of last season as well, and needless to say the former MVP creates some interesting mismatch dynamics in the pivot. Dalembert won't particularly enjoy chasing Garnett on P&R, but you also worry about Sanders staying mentally focused against one of the league's most intense competitors. In that sense Udoh's combination of mobility and on-court sanity might actually be the Bucks' best bet in the middle.

SVH Update: Your starters are Jennings, Ellis, Harris, Ilyasova and Dalembert, per the team's Twitter account.

Inside Brandon's head. Brandon Jennings hasn't fared particularly well against Rajon Rondo over the years, though my bigger worry is whether all the noise about his lack of an extension will have an effect on the court. It's not that the Bucks owe Jennings an eight figure annual salary, and as we've discussed at length, there's a good case to be made for deferring a long-term decision on Jennings until he hits restricted free agency next summer.

But you can't blame Jennings for feeling a little salty when Ty Lawson, Steph Curry, Jrue Holiday and DeMar friggin' DeRozan all nab $40+ million over four years. Jennings won't be the only quality player from his class hitting free agency next summer, but he's probably the best player from the '09 class who didn't get an extension, which could in turn make him a more attractive target on the open market. Basic supply and demand will tell you that's not a good thing for the Bucks, but they do get the benefit of additional cap flexibility. Jennings' qualifying offer is a rather modest $4.3 million, so as long as he remains unsigned he'll count for fairly little against the Bucks' cap. Compared to a hypothetical scenario in which Jennings had signed an extension worth $10 million next season, that's an extra $5.7 million in cap room with which to play. Silver linings!

Captains named. The Bucks' players have spoken: Mike Dunleavy and Monta Ellis will be your 12/13 captains. Team captains are a topic that doesn't typically get a ton of attention, but it does offer some interesting insight into a team's chemistry and locker room dynamic. Does it say anything that Ellis would be voted a captain over, say, Jennings? Maybe, maybe not.

Henson nearing return. Charles Gardner also reports that John Henson has resumed physical activities, but it doesn't sound like Scott Skiles expects to throw him into the fire this weekend.

"We're doing this 1-on-1, box work and we'll see later on today and sleep tonight, see how his knee reacts to it," Skiles said. "This is his first contact work in quite a while."

Skiles said he did not know if Henson would play in the opener or the home opener Saturday against Cleveland.

"I made a couple decisions," Skiles said of his frontcourt rotation. "You'll see how we play. Obviously John is a bit of a wild card right now. We're not sure what he can give us yet. He's been out for quite a while now.