The Celtics wrap up their abbreviated preseason schedule on Friday night with a showdown with the Brooklyn Nets (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2/NBC Sports Boston) in the final tuneup for both teams. While the buzz for Kyrie Irving’s return to the Garden will be limited with no fans, there’s a good chance we see all the regulars for both sides in what should be a decent dress rehearsal for each side ahead of the regular-season opener next week. Let’s take stock of what to watch for from a Celtics vantage point.
What do Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant look like after long layoffs?
The two stars made their preseason debut together earlier this week against what will likely be the NBA’s worst defense (the Wizards) this season. The early returns were encouraging on both from a physical standpoint (as far as any preseason game can be), but tonight's game should be an interesting litmus test tonight for everyone involved. It’s the final tuneup for both the Nets and Celtics in a very brief preseason (two games total) so the first half should be about as close to a dress rehearsal as we can expect in a preseason game. That makes the game a valuable exercise for the stars on both sides, especially with the two teams facing off in a Christmas battle just one week from today in a game that counts in the standings. While some matchups seem obvious (I’d expect a lot of Marcus Smart on Irving), the choice to guard Durant (Tatum or Brown) as a primary defender will be intriguing as well to preview years of battles to come. The Celtics young stars will also have the ability to test just how well these guys are back physically from a defensive perspective more than the Wizards. The star duo is going to be the main roadblock for the Celtics in the Atlantic Division for the foreseeable future and while it’s unclear how much of an overhaul this Nets group gets in the next few years (James Harden or another star will likely be targeted), a close look at their top dogs against the Celtics core will be important viewing.
How does the Celtics second unit fare against Nets depth?
Boston’s lack of depth due to injuries and free-agent