BOSTON -- Before the start of Tuesday's exhibition tilt against the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters to leave early in order to watch the presidential debate, and he'd consider doing the same. It seemed like he was joking, but maybe he wasn't.
Rivers tossed the keys to the coaching car to assistant Armond Hill at halftime and remained in the locker room for the second half. If Rivers had the debate on, he had a second TV with the game nearby as Hill said he knew every detail.
And even though the Celtics' third-teamers coughed up a double-digit lead in the final minutes as the Nets emerged with a 97-96 triumph at TD Garden, it was a good learning experience for Hill.
"[Rivers] just came to me and said, 'Armond, you're coaching the second half,'" explained Hill. "He's always said that as much as players are in training camp, so are the coaches. And so what would happen if he gets thrown out? We have to be prepared."
The Celtics were up two coming out of halftime, but soon stretched their lead as high as 12 in the second half. That lead was still at nine with less than three minutes to go before the Nets rallied against a Boston lineup that featured Kris Joseph, Fab Melo, Rob Kurz, Micah Downs and Jason Collins.
Rivers told Hill that he should have kept a ball-handler on the floor with that unit as Boston rushed shots with a chance to take the clock down. But Courtney Lee was cramping and Hill let the younger players work through their struggles.
Boston still had a couple of chances to win the game and unofficial assistant coach Rajon Rondo grabbed the clipboard to draw up a final play. An inbounds lob gave Downs a chance to convert an alley-oop at the rim, but he couldn't get the shot off in traffic.
"We got what we were looking for," Rondo said. "I just can't really comment on it. I think you get fined for saying certain things as a coach, so I think the guys did a great job executing out of the timeout, and it just didn't come up."
Hill, who smoothly handled Rivers' postgame duties with the media, liked being thrown into the fire.
"I can only thank Doc for giving me the opportunity to coach," Hill said. "That's what we're all here for. He's taught me; I've been with him and he'll continue to teach me and he's given me another opportunity."
And what about Rondo? Does he have a future in coaching?
"He always says, 'I'll never be a coach,' but he has that instinct," Hill said. "He has a great basketball IQ, so I hope he does it."
GREEN'S SISTER SOUNDS OFF
Celtics forward Jeff Green took a hard tumble to the floor while driving to the basket in the second quarter. After a moment to collect himself, Green soon pulled himself off the parquet for a pair of free throws. Having missed all of last season while undergoing surgery for an aortic aneurysm, Green scared his family with Tuesday's tumble.
"What was I thinking? That my sister was mad at me," Green said. "She just texted me. She said I need to stop falling like that or I'm going to send her to the ER, and I'm making her blood pressure go up. So that's why I was laughing when I got up because I fell a couple games ago and she told me the same thing. So, I mean, I wasn't hurt at all. I just had to take a deep breath because I heard everybody take a deep breath, so I got up smiling. I was fine. That happens."
NOTHING BUT NETS
The Celtics had a busy offseason signing 14 players, but Rivers admitted the Nets underwent quite the makeover as well.
"Changing the colors, going to Brooklyn, building a new arena, a new team adding a lot of players -- they’ve been really quiet," Rivers quipped. "They’ve had a heck of a summer. They’ve obviously had a lot of game-planning about the summer, because they had to have two game plans: The Dwight Howard plan, and the secondary plan, which is still a pretty good plan. They’ve done it, they’ve pulled it off. I think the new arena and all that helped recruit players. I think it helped keep a player -- I thought Deron Williams, if they stayed in Jersey, probably wouldn’t be there. They've had a nice summer."
The Celtics didn't get to see any of Brooklyn's typical starting five as Williams was held out along with Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez (top reserve MarShon Brooks didn't dress due to injury). Even still, Rivers thinks this team will be in the mix in the Atlantic Division next season.
"We’re looking at everyone that way," Rivers said. "Our division is hard and that’s fine. We obviously prefer it to be the way it’s been; that was terrific. But it’s a hard division. Not just the Nets, not just the Knicks, [but] Philadelphia. It’s just going to be a tough division. It’s going to be a lot of fun."
LOOSE BALLS: WORK TO BE DONE
* Defense not where it needs to be: Rondo admitted that Boston's defense, torched in the pick-and-roll at times this preseason, needs to make strides with the regular season rapidly approaching. "We're nowhere near where we want to be," Rondo said. "We've got to be a better pick-and-roll team, a better help-side team, and obviously a better rebounding team. Reggie Evans hurt us tonight on the boards, and they didn't even play their starters, so we want to continue to try to do a better job of boxing out and getting the rebound."
* Wilcox anxious, but cautious: Celtics forward/center Chris Wilcox has been sidelined since the second practice of the season due to back spasms -- this after his 2011-12 season ended in March when an enlarged aorta was detected -- but he's not rushing himself back onto the floor from the latest setback.
"It’s hard to just sit and watch. I’ve been watching since April," Wilcox said. "The main thing is just being around the game, being around the guys. It’s like motivation, it keeps me going. It’s tough when I’m not around; I don’t see it. Then I have to see it on TV. It’s better to be around the guys because they keep my mind off just sitting around, and things like that. It’s definitely tough because I want to be out there. I think I’ve been watching long enough."
For more on Wilcox's health, check out our pregame notes.