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Rajon Rondo and the Celtics are looking to rebound from Tuesday's loss in Miami.The Boston Celtics invade TD Garden for their 2012-13 home-opener against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* MAKING THE TRANSITION: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his team struggled to get back and properly set on defense against Miami, leading to breakdowns that helped the Heat put up a whopping 120 points in Tuesday's season-opener. Rivers implored his team Thursday to do a better job of forcing opponents to operate against a set defense. "We didn’t get back," said Rivers. "And we never set our defense. They saw it on the film [Thursday], it was us. I would love to say it was Miami’s great speed, and they have all that. You don’t get back on defense, you can’t play defense. To me that was the No. 1 thing."
* GETTING VOCAL: Celtics players stressed a desire to be more vocal on defense with the goal of eliminating some of the mistakes that plagued the team on Tuesday. "We didn't communicate," said Jeff Green. "If you don't communicate, it kind of throws everybody off the same page, and we didn't do a good job of that. That's something that we spoke on a lot today and that's something we've got to get better at." Captain Paul Pierce said that transition defense and communication go hand in hand. ""We've got to do a better job of talking to each other," said Pierce. "Transition defense, No. 1, [and] matching up with our guys. I think that's where it starts. Once we shoot the ball, whether we make or miss, we've got to make sure we get back and match up with our guy and talk to each other a lot better. That's something that we emphasized here [Thursday] morning, that we've got to have better communication."
* KEEP IT SIMPLE: Rivers admitted the week-long break leading up to the opener might have worked against Boston because players were overthinking plays and coverages against Miami. The Celtics might dumb things down a bit, particularly on the defensive end, and let players' natural instincts take over. "When you are used to doing something one way -- and we had too many coverages," said Rivers. "We’re a simplistic defensive team, it’s a system. But when you have start showing on the 1, show on another, go on another, then no one is playing at full speed because they are not sure of what they are doing. I thought that was on [the coaching staff]."
* SMALL BALL AGAIN: The Heat went small for much of Tuesday's game, forcing the Celtics away from using the likes of Darko Milicic (DNP) and rookie Jared Sullinger (eight minutes, all in the first half). Rivers said the Bucks will likely play more small ball because of their strong guard play, but noted his team will likely use lineups with multiple pure bigs on Friday. Even still, expect to see smaller lineups, including possible work for Sullinger at the 5. "I’m comfortable with Jared at the 5 or 4," said Rivers. "We just have to get him to play with a better motor."
* BOTTOM LINE IS PROGRESS: Rivers was realistic about the progress Boston can show on Friday. Given that the team struggled with defense in the preseason, improvement is going to be a process over the course of an 82-game season. "[We'll get a] little better, then the next night a little better," said Rivers. "You don’t build Rome in a day. Correct? So I just want to keep getting better. But I want to win and get better."
* DANIELS BACK IN BOSTON: Marquis Daniels, who spent the past three seasons with the Celtics, returns on Friday with the Bucks. For Milwaukee, Friday's game is their season-opener.