7 p.m. ET: He’s baaaack.
After missing the entirety of the NBA preseason, Rajon Rondo will make his triumphant return to the Boston Celtics’ lineup Wednesday night as the C’s open their regular season against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden.
The Celtics played the Nets twice during the preseason, but both of those games featured a patchwork Brooklyn starting five. Most of those starters will be back Wednesday night, but the Nets still will be without center Brook Lopez — a big break for an undersized Celtics team.
Mason Plumlee will get the start in Lopez’s absence and join former Celtic Kevin Garnett in the Brooklyn frontcourt. It’ll be just the second time Garnett and Rondo have faced off since the former was traded by Boston last offseason.
Here are the starting lineups for both teams:
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Follow along with all the action right here and follow NESN.com Celtics writer Zack Cox on Twitter for instant updates and analysis.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
7:25 p.m.: Brad Stevens said in his pregame meeting with reporters that Rondo won’t have any sort of minutes restriction tonight, but that the point guard might play in shorter stints than usual, at least in the first half. He’ll also be wearing a small pad on his hand and — on a random note — appears to have taken the T to the arena.
Rondo was his usual cryptic self when asked about his transportation habits, of course.
Anyway, let’s play some basketball.
7:38 p.m.: Kevin Garnett gets a huge ovation from the Garden crowd during pregame introductions. He’s still very much beloved in Boston.
First quarter 11:59, 0-0: Game time.
The Nets win the opening tip, and we are underway.
First quarter 5:29, Celtics 21-12: The Celtics shot about a billion 3-pointers during the preseason, and through half a quarter of regular-season ball, they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Four of the team’s first eight shots came from deep, with Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger all connecting.
Brad Stevens went to his bench early, replacing Bradley and Rajon Rondo with Evan Turner and Marcus Smart at the 5:37 mark. Rondo is looking solid so far, tossing out four assists already.
First quarter 3:15, Celtics 26-17: Kelly Olynyk is feeling it offensively, leading all scorers with nine points. He heads to the bench, though, after picking up his second foul.
Olynyk almost added to his point total shortly before departing but couldn’t convert on two layup attempts after out-jumping Andrei Kirilenko for a loose ball.
End first quarter, Celtics 32-23: All things considered, that first quarter could not have gone much better for the Celtics. They lead by nine after shooting 59 percent from the floor and playing some surprisingly good defense down low. Jared Sullinger, in particular, has been impressive in the paint on the defensive end.
Second quarter 9:40, Celtics 38-26: Tyler Zeller has been the beneficiary of some nifty Rondo passes over the past few minutes, resulting in two easy buckets.
The Celtics currently are testing out their super-small lineup, with Smart, Rondo and Bradley all in the game and Green playing the four.
Second quarter 6:18, Celtics 46-33: This Rondo-Smart-Bradley combo is a bit of a work in progress. The trio’s defensive intensity has resulted in two steals, but it’s also left a number of Nets wide open along the perimeter. This is the first time the three have ever played together in a game, though, so an adjustment period is expected.
Second quarter 2:57, 55-40: Marcus Thornton is doing his Energizer Bunny thing off the bench, pouring in seven points in seven minutes on 3-of-3 shooting. The Celtics now have seven players with six or more points, including four with seven. Olynyk’s nine still leads all Celtics scorers. Joe Johnson, also with nine points, is pacing the Nets.
Halftime, Celtics 67-41: Well, this has been a very impressive performance thus far from your Boston Celtics.
The C’s have spread around the ball on offense, scoring 30-plus points in each quarter without any player totaling more than 10 (Sullinger and Thornton), and have largely shut down the Brook Lopez-less Nets offense. Lopez’s replacement, Mason Plumlee, has been on the court for just eight minutes and has yet to put up a shot.
Some other nuggets to chew on at halftime:
— Rajon Rondo’s broken hand has not affected his passing. He’s dished out nine assists, including several that will pop up on highlight reels later tonight.
— Tyler Zeller is doing his best to prove his early-preseason struggles were an aberration. The big man has played great so far in limited playing time, scoring six points on 3-of-4 shooting in six minutes.
Third quarter 11:59, Celtics 67-41: We are underway in the second half. Both teams have their starting lineups back on the floor.
Third quarter 7:48, 75-56: The Nets come out firing in the second half, sinking seven of their first nine shots. They haven’t been able to put much of a dent in the Celtics’ lead, though, thanks to two buckets from Kelly Olynyk and one from Jeff Green.
Still, Stevens calls a timeout.
Third quarter 5:26, 84-60: Well hello, Rajon Rondo.
Rondo singlehandedly carried the Celtics’ latest offensive run, scoring three straight baskets to jack Boston’s lead back up to 24. The first came after he pump-faked Bojan Bogdanovic, drove down the lane and banked a shot high off the backboard. The third was a bank shot, as well, this time from beyond the arc.
He’s nearing triple-double territory with 11 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
End third quarter, Celtics 101-72: I believe we can say the rout officially is on. Olynyk drills a baseline jumper at the buzzer to cap a 22-12 run to end the quarter. The Celtics have six players in double figures and another three with seven points or more.
Fourth quarter 8:58, Celtics 103-84: The Celtics have come out sloppy here in the fourth, and the Nets have rattled off a 12-2 run as a result. Brooklyn likely won’t be able to erase this deficit entirely, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Celtics can finish strong after wilting late so often last season.
Fourth quarter 3:46, Celtics 113-97: We have a bit of late-game hostility here, as Kevin Garnett and Kelly Olynyk get into it with one another near center court. KG gets T’d up, and Jeff Green drains both free throws.
Final, Celtics 121-105: And that will do it.
The Celtics coast past the Nets en route to a blowout win in their regular-season opener. Boston used a balanced attack (eight players in double figures) to rack up 101 points through the fourth quarter then let off the gas a bit in the final frame.
Now, it’s on to Texas. The Celtics will visit the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.
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