BOSTON – Part I of Doc Rivers’ opinion of his Boston Celtics’ defense:

“I think we have shown that when we really are focused and zeroed in, we can be really good at it.”

Now for Part II:

“But it’s not consistent.”

The Celtics flew up and down the court at the start of Sunday’s final preseason game, an 88-79 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at the TD Garden.

Brandon Bass dove for loose balls. Jeff Green contested shots. Kevin Garnett intimidated inside. Those steals, blocks and defensive rebounds led to Rajon Rondo fast breaks. His jumper gave Boston a 12-3 lead.

Then it was if Boston realized it was an exhibition game and let up on the gas pedal. Philadelphia shooters found room.

And the Celtics’ offense misfired with bad passes. Boston found itself trailing 22-21 after the first quarter and 51-41 a halftime.

The defense came back in the third quarter, but Philadelphia — led by Dorell Wright’s 20 points — held on. The benches began to empty midway through the fourth quarter.

So what do we know about this Celtics team after its final tune-up, before the season-opener in Miami Oct. 30?

There is talent.

“I like our team,” Rivers said. “I like the fact that we have a lot of groups. It’s going to take time for each group to find their own identity when they’re on the floor.

“When you have that many moving parts, it usually takes time.”

Speaking of moving parts, the 6-foot-9 Green played both guard and forward, and excelled (12 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks).

Green, obtained in the controversial Kendrick Perkins trade with Oklahoma City in February 2011, missed last season with an aortic aneurysm.

Now healthy and cleared to play, Green is in the post rotation, along with Garnett and Brandon Bass. He played strong underneath on Sunday, muscling to the basket.

“We were hoping to see that after the trade,” Rivers said. “He was uncomfortable, new situation. And we weren’t sure exactly how to use him.”


“He’s more aggressive and he’s comfortable with his game,” Rivers said. “He understands how he can score in our offense. He’s got a chance to be terrific.”

One good thing coming out of preseason is that the Big Three of Rondo, Garnett and Paul Pierce came out healthy.

Rondo looked in prime form, driving, dishing and pulling up. He recorded 12 points, 10 assists and only one turnover.

Jared Sullinger (11 points), Bass (10) and Courtney Lee (10) also scored in double figures.

The Celtics will take two days off before going back to work for the upcoming season

“We know we have a chance to be really good,” Rivers said. “But that sounds good. We have to actually do it.”

GUARD LEANDRO BARBOSA has joined the Celtics but the team said he could not play Sunday because of complications with the Brazilian’s visa. Barbosa, 29, was signed last week, adding a veteran guard at the end of the bench.

Barbosa said he knows his playing time may be limited because of Boston’s depth. And when he’s in the game, he doesn’t have to start shooting.

“The way I see it, there are so many weapons with the team, you just go with the flow,” Barbosa said. “Everybody can score. The most important thing is the defense.”

NOTES: Darko Milicic, the 7-foot center signed before preseason, missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left wrist. Rivers said Milicic could have played, but wanted him to be completely healthy for the season opener. The roster, now at 17, will be cut down to 15 this week. Boston will likely say good-bye to 6-8 Micah Downs and 6-9 Rob Kurz.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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