WALTHAM — The Celtics are mixing, matching, and experimenting throughout their preseason games, with each lineup almost certainly differing from the last. Not much can be read into that, aside from the fact that they’re searching for combinations that work.
So when they take the court Wednesday against the New York Knicks at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, the rotation of players won’t be that similar to the one employed during their loss Monday to the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden.
One key difference is that shooting guard Jordan Crawford will be absent because of a death in his family. MarShon Brooks is questionable after suffering from a headache that ended his practice early Tuesday.
Either way, coach Brad Stevens said after practice , “You’ll see a lot more of Phil Pressey, which is good. I’m really looking forward to that. I think he’s done a great job.”
With Rajon Rondo still out as he recovers from knee surgery, Pressey, an undrafted free agent guard out of Missouri, is the only healthy true point guard on the Celtics roster.
At 5 feet 11 inches, Pressey, who averaged 9.4 points and 6.6 assists during the Celtics’ summer league games in Orlando, is undersized at his position, but he said right now he’s more focused on defense than offense.
“I just try to go out there and defend the ball well and try to change the pace of the game on defense,” Pressey said. “Offensively, I know I can pass and create for others, but I’m going to try to change the game on the defensive end.”
Pressey said he played so many minutes for most of his college career that he couldn’t focus on defense as much. That isn’t the case anymore.
“I’m going to try to come out here and pressure guys like I did — like my freshman year, I did that a lot,” said Pressey, who stayed late after Tuesday’s practice to get up more shots.
It has also helped, he added, going against defensive ace Avery Bradley in practice. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Pressey’s locker is sandwiched between Bradley’s and Rondo’s.
Stevens said Wednesday’s game would be a lot more scripted with regard to the lineup than Monday’s game, with more precise substitution patterns.
Stevens also hinted that some of the training camp invitees could see floor time.
Fix it right up
The way he’s wired, Stevens will watch game film each night after a game because he wants to be able to work on improvements immediately — as in the very next day at practice. After his team’s loss to the Raptors, the coach was encouraged by what he saw.
“I took a lot more positives than negatives from it,” he said.
Granted, the team is young and still learning a new system, so everything comes in baby steps for these Celtics, and criticism should be tempered, at least for now.
To Stevens, the two areas that needed improvement were rebounding (Toronto was plus-20) and defense (the Raptors shot more than 50 percent from the field).
As far as rebounding is concerned, the Celtics are an undersized team with just one true center — 25-year-old, 6-11 rookie Vitor Faverani. So this is likely to be an issue going forward.
“We’re just going to have to do it more by committee than individually,” Stevens said.
On defense, the Celtics had their moments, but overall showed their youth and relative inexperience in terms of playing alongside each other.
“We need to help each other, especially on the rebounding,” Bradley said. “I feel like we’ll improve. We have a great coach and he prepares us every practice. Whatever we do bad, the next day he fixes it. I feel like we’ll be fine.”
On offense, Stevens said, “I thought we had times during the game where we really moved the ball and got great looks, and then we had times where we got a little stagnant.”
That’s a wrap
Bradley wore a large wrap over his left hand in practice, protecting the index finger he injured during training camp. Bradley downplayed the injury and said it wasn’t an issue. Stevens said an X-ray on Bradley’s hand last week came back negative. “He hasn’t found it to be debilitating, so I think he’s playing through whatever pain he’s got,” Stevens said.