- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Anthony Gruppuso/US Presswire
Kevin Garnett and the Celtics visit Kris Humphries and the Nets on Wednesday evening.It's a national TV battle when the Boston Celtics (5-3, 3-1 road) visit the Brooklyn Nets (4-2, 3-1 home) on Thursday night at the Barclays Center (8 p.m., TNT). Here's what to watch for:
* WILL RONDO GO?: The Celtics sat Rondo out of the final 17 minutes of Wednesday's win over the Jazz and were scheduled to reevaluate his sprained right ankle on Thursday morning. If Rondo can't go, the Celtics would likely split the point guard duties between Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa, but clearly it's not an ideal situation without a pure backup ball-handler on the roster. It didn't seem to detour Boston much Wednesday as Barbosa provided a crucial offensive spark after Rondo went down. In situations like this, Paul Pierce has typically taken on a point forward role to aid with the ball-handling. For the Nets, Gerald Wallace is expected to miss a sixth consecutive game while nursing his own sprained ankle, while MarShon Brooks should be back after being sidelined for three games with -- what else? -- an ankle sprain.
* MATCHING BROOKLYN'S SIZE: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he doesn't believe his team is going unconventionally small this season, insisting that Kevin Garnett and Chris Wilcox are centers -- or what passes for such in the NBA these days. But Rivers has kept both Jason Collins and Darko Milicic glued to the bench with the promise of possible minutes against bigger frontlines. The Brook Lopez/Kris Humphries combo (with Andray Blatche off the bench) could tempt Rivers to utilize his pure 7-footers more, if for no other reason than to limit Garnett's minutes after he played the entire fourth quarter Wednesday night and overshot his minute allotment during Boston's game-heavy stretch. Said Rivers: "Honestly, Kevin talked me into it. I had no intentions of playing him more than 25 minutes [Wednesday]. Because it’s 4 [games] in 5 [nights]... but he talked me into that and we won the game, so I’m happy about it right now. Check with me after the game [Thursday]."
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: What do Synergy Sports numbers tell us about the Nets so far? Brooklyn ranks ninth in the league averaging 0.923 points per play on offense and they are going to attack in the post (13.6 percent of their plays have come in the post). The Nets have been a terrible pick-and-roll team, but rank in the top half of the league in just about every other play type. Defensively, the Nets rank 19th in the league (0.901 points per play), but haven't done a good job against spot-up shooting (which Boston often lives off). Teams have rarely attempted to post-up against Brooklyn's size, but have had success when they do, and Boston shouldn't be afraid of sending Garnett in there to battle (or trying to post Pierce or Jeff Green with their bigger lineup).
* ATLANTIC DIVISION CLASH: The Knicks are off to a blazing start and the 76ers have already beaten Boston on its own turf. But where do the Nets fit into the competition for division supremacy? There's clearly enough talent to be in the mix and this is a chance for Brooklyn to prove they want to be part of the conversation -- particularly with a national TV broadcast at their sparkling new arena. It's a tough turnaround for Boston, which is in the middle of five games in seven days, particularly if Rondo can't go. The two teams joust again at the Barclays Center again on Christmas, so this ought to be a nice holiday appetizer.