NEW YORK — The Celtics continue to load up on guards, signing Leandro Barbosa on Wednesday. And Thursday night, they took a 115-85 exhibition win over the Nets.
The Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak and found their defensive groove.
“We talked about it before the game, we had yet to show up defensively,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Tonight, that’s us, that’s our defense. We’re trying to convince them, with all the scoring we have, if we get stops we’re going to score and score in transition more. We’re going to score in a lot of different ways and you could see that tonight.”
Barbosa, who averaged 11.1 points per game with Indiana and Toronto last season, signed as a free agent. The native of Brazil was not available for Thursday’s game because of a visa issue, but could play against the Knicks in Albany Saturday.
“I don’t know his condition, so just wait and see,” Rivers said. “I know what he’s done. I love his speed, his ability to handle the ball.
“We have another ballhandler. Our theory is, if we have three ballhandlers on the floor, someone can bring the ball up.”
The Celtics previously added free agents Courtney Lee and Jason Terry, perimeter threats similar to Barbosa.
“They’ll tell me before I can tell them,” Rivers said of playing time for the No. 2 guards. “I don’t think it will be that hard. Some play the same position, and when Avery [Bradley] comes back, one of those guys will not play as much, or not at all.
“We want to have a third ballhandler out there. And that’s where Jeff Green comes in, because he can run the team from his position, as well.”
That’s more like it
Kevin Garnett (14 points) played 21 minutes, his high this preseason.
Garnett said the Celtics had been motivated to make up for a 107-75 loss to the 76ers on Monday. They also lost to the Nets, 97-96, Tuesday in Boston.
“It had nothing to do with Brooklyn,” Garnett said. “In Philly, we didn’t play basketball. When we put this jersey on, it comes with responsibility. And we don’t take that lightly. We feel like Philly, we took a step back, for whatever reason. People jumped back on their horse and got back to work. Tonight was another night to get better.
“I love our team, I like us a lot. We’re working on something. We’re trying to establish something here and you don’t establish that just by going through the motions. We’re a team that works, and we work hard, play hard, associate with each other. When we touch the floor, it’s all business.”
Garnett departed after converting a jumper for a 73-51 advantage with 6:29 remaining in the third. Unlike in previous games, though, Garnett returned late in the quarter.
The Celtics got off to a 9-0 lead over the opening 1:14, and also had runs of 7-0 and 8-0 in the first half.
Jared Sullinger (12 points, team-high six rebounds) made his fourth start, and played most of the second half with five fouls. Sullinger leads the team in personals with 22 and rebounds with 42 in six games.
Lee scored 18 points, his best this preseason, and added four steals.
Brandon Bass (right knee bruise) sat out the second half. He had four assists in 13 minutes.
Rivers said before the game that the number of possible lineup combinations has been slowing the Celtics’ progress.
“The units, some will work, some won’t. It’s just going to take time,” he said afterward. “Tonight, they all worked. It’s just one of those nights we all have in the league. You don’t get too high or low about it, but it’s nice to have the options.”
Asked about the team’s identity before the game, Rivers replied, “I don’t know yet. We talked about that as a group today. I’m not sure who we are yet, what we are yet.
“I don’t know who we are yet because of our combinations. I like our team, but it’s just going to take time. I hope we get off great but I’m also realistic enough to know we’re going to be so far from our best basketball on opening night until later because we have the ability to play a lot of different combinations. And even though you can do them, they’ve got to work. And it takes time for chemistry and timing.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.