Point guard Rajon Rondo might not be ready to go for the Boston Celtics, but the Brooklyn Nets still want to see how they fare against the five-time defending Atlantic Division champs.
They didn't match up well in Boston's first visit to Barclays Center.
The Celtics and Nets each go for a fourth consecutive victory on Thursday night in their first regular-season meeting in Brooklyn.
The NBA leader with 12.5 assists per game, Rondo is day-to-day after leaving in the third quarter of Wednesday's 98-93 victory over Utah with a right ankle injury.
Newcomer Leandro Barbosa stepped in for the three-time All-Star and scored 16 of Boston's 47 bench points.
"Barbosa was terrific,'' coach Doc Rivers said. "I mean, he bailed us out.''
The Celtics (5-3) were in no danger of losing in their first trip to Brooklyn, a 115-85 preseason victory on Oct. 18 that marked the Nets' first national television appearance since March 30, 2011.
Kevin Garnett said after that game that Boston was just "all business" and that its intensity had "nothing to do with Brooklyn" and trying to quiet all the hype the franchise has received by relocating from New Jersey. Nets coach Avery Johnson saw it differently.
"They came in with a different agenda in our preseason game. I think we'll have a little bit of a different agenda tomorrow," Johnson said after Wednesday's practice. "We're a better team (then we were then) and hopefully it will show on the floor."
The Nets (4-2) are still very much a work in progress as newcomer Joe Johnson has slowly worked his way into the offense, but Tuesday's 114-101 victory over Cleveland was a positive sign for "Brooklyn's Backcourt." Johnson and point guard Deron Williams scored season highs of 25 and 26, respectively, after neither had reached 20 all season.
"It's probably the best game that we've had together,'' said Johnson, who's averaging 15.5 points on 40 percent shooting. "It's still early in the season, but yeah, I'm sure that's the vision everybody had, that's the vision I had and I'm sure this won't be the last (big) game. Like I say man, we're just figuring things out.''
The Nets haven't been able to figure out the Celtics, losing all three matchups in 2011-12 by an average of 14.7 points and winning just twice in the last 20 meetings.
Brooklyn center Brook Lopez is off to a quick start with 17.5 points per game, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, but it appears that forward Gerald Wallace (sprained left ankle) will miss a sixth consecutive game.
Keith Bogans, a 6-5 guard, has started for Wallace in four of the last five contests.
Nets second-year guard MarShon Brooks could also see action after being sidelined three games with a left ankle sprain. Brooks averaged 13.7 points last season against Boston - the most by a Net who played in all three games.
Paul Pierce led Boston in those matchups with 22.7 points, while Garnett averaged 18.3 and 11.3 boards.
The Celtics have won 10 of 11 on the road in this series.
"It probably is a game they have circled, so we have to be ready to play," Williams said. "... If we want to take a step in that direction, this is a big game for us."
Brooklyn has held a 20-point lead in each of its last three home games.
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