76ers-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

All of the Boston Celtics' pieces are present. For coach Doc Rivers, it's just a matter of fitting them together.

In a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference semifinals, the revamped Celtics will try to again fine-tune their chemistry on Friday as they host the Philadelphia 76ers, a team relying on stingy defense without its marquee addition.

After starting the season with two losses, Boston (2-2) has won two straight. But both victories came over winless Washington and were not overly impressive.

The Celtics needed overtime for a 100-94 home victory over the Wizards on Wednesday after an 89-86 road win Saturday. But as Rivers tries to find a formula for a largely reshuffled roster, getting back to .500 was a relief.

"Well, we won the game," he said. "Right now that's the type of team we are. We're not playing great.''

Boston's points per game (96.0) and points allowed (99.8) are both hovering in the league's lower-third as Rivers' new rotation gets acclimated with each other. Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa and Jared Sullinger are all newcomers, and Jeff Green missed all of last season after having an aortic aneurysm detected and operated on.

Terry had mostly struggled in three games before going 7 of 15 for 16 points.

Meanwhile, the stalwarts - Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce - are all operating at or near their normal levels of production. Rondo is picking up a larger share of the scoring duties with 16.0 points per game compared to a 10.9 career average. Pierce is trying to shake off a rough shooting start to the season - hitting 35.0 percent of his shots - but is averaging a team-best 19.0 points.

"We know we have guys that are capable," Pierce said after going 2 of 12 for 15 points Wednesday. "It's just getting it together still."

Finding their offensive rhythm could be tough against Philadelphia (2-2), which is playing sound defense and also gave the Celtics problems in last season's playoffs.

Boston eliminated the 76ers in seven games while averaging 89.1 points last May. Garnett averaged team highs of 19.7 points and 11.0 rebounds for the Celtics, who held Philadelphia to an average of 85.4 points.

Defense has been crucial for the Sixers this season, with the absence of the newly acquired Andrew Bynum (knee) limiting the team's offensive potential. Doug Collins' team has been up to the challenge, limiting opponents to an average of 86.8 points - 2.6 less than a year ago.

The Sixers forced more turnovers (24) than New Orleans had field goals (23) in a 77-62 road win Wednesday. The Hornets scored a franchise low, though they were without two of their better players in Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.

"It wasn't a masterpiece but we'll take it," Collins said. "Our guys are growing, the way they talk with each other."

The 22-year-old Jrue Holiday is flourishing as he begins his first full season directing the offense, as Andre Iguodala - now with Denver - often assumed a point-forward role in years past. Holiday is playing five more minutes a game than he did last season and averaging nearly five more points at 18.0. He's also more than doubled his assist average, recording 9.5 a game.

"Coach (Collins) trusts me (to make the correct reads) and call the right plays," Holiday told the team's official website. "Him showing that confidence means a lot to me."

The Sixers have lost six of their last seven regular-season games in Boston.