The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping to have better success than the Boston Celtics did in their season opener, as the two Eastern Conference foes collide Friday at TD Garden.
Milwaukee has lost five straight season openers and last won a season-opening game on the road in 2006 at Detroit.
The Bucks are counting on guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to carry them after a 31-35 finish in the lockout-shortened 2001-12 campaign. They haven't made the postseason since 2009-10 and head coach Scott Skiles is optimistic a full training camp and preseason together will help the cause.
"Having a (full training) camp together and getting to know each other a little better should be very helpful," Skiles said.
Milwaukee went 3-5 in the preseason. It traded for Ekpe Udoh and Samuel Dalembert in the offseason and drafted John Henson. The additions aided the Bucks during the preseason, as they finished the preseason ranked first in blocked shots per game with 8.50.
Defense is a major artery for all teams looking to improve production, which is why folks in Brew City are confident frontcourt contributors Dalembert, Tobias Harris and Ersan Ilyasova can make a difference in the East.
Ellis and forward Mike Dunleavy were elected team captains for the Bucks. Dunleavy is one of Skiles' most dependable players off the bench.
"When your teammates select you for something, it means a lot," Dunleavy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Being in the league my 11th year now, I've seen a lot and been around a lot. Hopefully I can provide some leadership for our guys and we can have a great season."
Meanwhile, the Celtics were trying to get their season off to a great start, but dropped a 120-107 loss at Miami on Tuesday. After the Heat received their championship rings, they stormed out to win the first three quarters and put Boston away in the final stanza.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo finished with 23 and 20 points, respectively, for Boston, which got nine points and 12 rebounds from Kevin Garnett. Rondo also collected seven boards and a game-high 13 assists. Leandro Barbosa scored all 16 of his points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough.
Ray Allen, who won a title with Boston a few years ago, bolted for the shores of Biscayne Bay in the offseason and netted 19 off the bench for the Heat.
Allen's departure stuck in the craw of Garnett.
"I don't have Ray's number any more," Garnett said at the teams' media day in early October. "I'm not trying to communicate. I'm just being honest with everybody in here ... It's just what it is."
Garnett never acknowledged Allen when he came over to the Boston bench to show respect to his former teammates.
"I was just trying to focus as much as I could. I am such an intense person," Garnett said. "Obviously he's on the other side. It's time to play the game, man."
The Celtics, who dropped the first three games of the 2011-12 season, haven't lost a home opener since 2006 versus New Orleans. In other team news, Rondo has 10-plus assists in 25 straight games. Garnett is one game away from tying Otis Thorpe (1,257) for 19th on the NBA's all-time games played list.
Boston won all three games versus Milwaukee last season and is riding a six- game winning streak in the series. The Bucks are winless in four straight games in Beantown.