It was a ragged shooting night to open up the preseason, but the Celtics still look great on defense. Everybody got playing time and the rookies look ready to roll.
Before tip-off, I was already excited just at the idea of Javonte Green getting more opportunity. He may only be a starter due to the numerous injuries the Celtics are known for, but I’m happy regardless. Same goes for Robert Williams, who might be the team’s fifth best center if we’re counting Smart and Grant Williams (and we should).
Jaylen Brown springing out of nowhere for a steal is very high on my list of important developments I wanted to see. We get a little carried away over how well he really plays defense sometimes, and he’ll need to be vastly better to live up to our All-Defensive Team expectations. He’s very solid on the ball, but unreliable away from it.
The 76ers obviously have strong defenders, but the flurry of early turnovers is kind of disappointing. It’s game #1 of the preseason so it doesn’t matter, but carelessness with the ball has become somewhat of a mainstay in the list of Boston’s issues on offense, so I guess I’m mildly concerned.
Speaking of things that don’t matter: Tacko Fall is having a bad time guarding Joel Embiid. He picked off an inbound pass, but then decided to dribble more than a couple times. This was a bad idea for a lot of reasons.
Jeff Teague taking over ball handling duties and knocking down a couple threes helps the Celtics tread water in the middle of their early deficit. Teague is sort of a known quantity at this point, so I’m not expecting a huge season from him, but a welcome addition without Kemba Walker available.
Boston’s Smart/Brown/Tatum/G Williams/Green lineup found their footing on defense while generating good looks on offense. Brad’s revolving door rotations inherently make it difficult for this game so have any rhythm, but that’s a lineup we could expect to see when the real games start. Grant is probably a stronger starter than Rob, and Javonte could be in line to fill some of the Hayward void, especially if Romeo isn’t healthy.
Jaylen Brown ends the first half at 1-of-11 shooting. Tatum shot 3-for-10. Nobody else took more than four shots, which is fine. Let the Jays shake all the dust off when the games don’t count.
Howard starts in place of a Embiid at the start of second half and Milton in place of Green
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) December 16, 2020
So the meaningless game means even less with Embiid resting, but the Celtics were active to start the quarter with Smart stealing the ball while sprawled on the floor and Javonte converting it into a dunk.
Aaron Nesmith and Carsen Edwards see the floor for the first time about halfway through the third quarter. The defense from both was initially pretty rough, but Nesmith hits a stepback off-the-dribble three pretty quickly. Carsen’s first attempt barely grazed the side of the iron.
The fans wanted Nesmith, and they got ’em pic.twitter.com/fbwIfC6btE
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 16, 2020
I’m way late to notice this, but Robert Williams already has five fouls at this point. This would explain the Celtics doing the exact thing I want them to do and run Grant at center for a while.
This is a solid first impression for Payton Pritchard, who’s back in to close the quarter. There’s really not much to report on here, but I really like that he can dribble the ball and get to his spots on offense. There’s so much emphasis on three-point shooting these days that people lose sight of dribbling as a skill, but I think it’s just as necessary. Can’t have a good basketball team with players who can’t dribble. I don’t know how good Pritchard his, but I know he’s got handles.
Finally, we see Tremont Waters, who I still fully believe in as an NBA player. Tyrese Maxey checks in for the first time for Philly as well. The Doc Rivers stereotype of burying young players lives on.
Nesmith and his 6’10” wingspan came up with a huge block on a Tyrese Maxey drive that looked to be too quick to catch up to. Nesmith’s defense was only so-so in college, so we’ll take this as a good omen.
The rest was garbage time. Not a lot of defense was played at the end of this one. The young fellas looked more comfortable playing together.
Jeff Teague very nonchalantly scored 18 points on 7-9 shooting, including 4-4 from three. It’s unsustainably efficient, but I can see him playing the Sixers pretty well in the regular season. They’re still pretty vulnerable to squirrely guards. Pritchard added 16 points (12 in the fourth quarter) on 6-10 shooting with some tough finishes in the paint.