Howard Smith/US Presswire
Kevin Garnett and the Celtics host the 76ers on Sunday at TD Garden.The Boston Celtics close out their eight-game preseason slate on Sunday with a visit from the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* BRING ON THE REAL GAMES!: The Celtics will close out a string of six games in nine nights. All that activity has forced coach Doc Rivers to balance minutes and don't expect the veterans to get pushed very hard against Philadelphia. After sitting out Saturday's game against the Knicks in Albany, N.Y., Kevin Garnett will likely play one full-tilt half, but it's unclear if Paul Pierce, who twisted an ankle Thursday in Brooklyn, will give it a go. The Celtics will push those available for a half, then likely cruise to the finish line of the preseason. Real games can't get here fast enough.
* SEEKING TO ATONE: The Celtics probably didn't lose any sleep after getting throttled by the 76ers in Philadelphia on Monday (especially playing without Garnett), but this is a prideful bunch that probably doesn't want to give a division foe any extra confidence. Boston responded strong the next night out against Brooklyn and it will be interesting to see if that 107-75 shellacking in Philly gives them a tiny bit of motivation at the start of Sunday's game.
* LAST CHANCE TO MAKE AN IMPRESSION: Training camp invites Rob Kurz and Micah Downs have had some nice moments during this run of exhibition games and, while Saturday's game against the Knicks might have been their last chance at extended action, they'll probably get one more chance to make an impression on both the Celtics and the rest of the league. Rookie Kris Joseph's strong play has also firmed up his chances for the 15th and final roster spot, while Fab Melo could get more second-half time (the Knicks' smaller lineups limited him to eight minutes on Saturday). Final roster cuts likely loom after the game so the team can maximize reps for veterans during the week leading up to the regular season.
* EVERYBODY LINE UP: This is Boston's last game opportunity before the season opens in Miami on Oct. 30. Rivers doesn't necessarily have to show his cards with his starting 5 (particularly if Pierce doesn't suit up), but the first half could be a solid chance to get a glimpse of how the potential first- and second-unit rotation would look in game action. The Celtics will likely take Monday off after this back-to-back, but will still have seven full days of practice time after tonight's game to get everything in place for the opener.
* YOUR TURN: What will you be focusing on in this one? (Don't forget to click over at the Patriots-Jets tilt in Foxborough). Sound off in the comments.