New blood looks good: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/76ers

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

New additions Teague, Pritchard and Nesmith all showed up for Boston in their first preseason game

1. 2020 preseason Game 1 is in the books. It’s nice to be able to say that preseason is already half over. The Celtics are going to need young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to carry them early in the season, while Kemba Walker recovers from a procedure on his knee. This was a pretty blah effort from both, as they combined to shoot 5-of-24 from the floor. A pessimist will wring their hands and worry. An optimist will say “Better to get the bad out early!” We’re going to lean towards the optimistic side, as the season gets underway.

2. Javonte Green was a surprise starter. Brad Stevens said pregame that the spot Green filled will feature different players depending on the matchups. That would seem to indicate that Tatum, Brown, Marcus Smart and a big (Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson were both out) will start most nights. Stevens also said “That will all change when Kemba is back”, which makes sense.

As for the rest of the rotation, Stevens was clearly mixing and matching all night. Without Walker, Theis, Thompson and Romeo Langford, the Celtics were down at least three rotation players. That led to some experimentation and lineups we’ll never see when the games start for real next week.

3. As for Green himself, he made the most of his starting opportunity. He got the scoring started for Boston. Green runs the initial screen action with Robert Williams, then pitches to Tatum. He then picks and pops for the open three-pointer off Tatum.

Later in the quarter, Green pressures Seth Curry as a passer. Brown jumps the passing lane and it leads to Green showing off his athleticism with the alley-oop finish. Bonus: It was nice to see Brown throw a solid lob here!

4. It was a quiet night for Jayson Tatum, but this play stood out. He gets Joel Embiid on a switch and doesn’t hesitate, driving right to the basket. The quick stop and head fake to get Embiid out of the play was great. Too often in previous years, Tatum would have tried to go through Embiid. This was a smart play to open himself up for the easy layup.

5. Because Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson were both out, Brad Stevens went to Tacko Fall for early minutes. It was good to see Fall get matched against Embiid. On this play, the 76ers clear the side for Embiid to work one-on-one. Fall does a nice job of moving his feet and then using his ridiculous length to contest the jumper.

One other observation on Fall: He looked far more fluid in his movements than he did at any point in his rookie season. Even just running up and down the court seemed easier for Fall. Something to keep an eye on, in a year where the Two-Way players may need to be used more than ever.

6. Payton Pritchard had a fun debut. He scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, but what will get him minutes is his ability to defend and makes plays as a passer. Pritchard does a nice job here of driving the closeout and kicking to Jeff Teague (who was Boston’s best player in this game) for the triple:

Later, Pritchard comes up with the loose ball and does a nice job of staying patient in transition to find Robert Williams on the other end of the alley-oop:

7. Grant Williams got extended run with big men out and he delivered. This feels like a big season for Williams, as he should be a key rotation player at both the four and the five. It was good to see him flash some new skills, like driving Joel Embiid of the fake DHO here:

And then later in the game, Williams showed that he’s learned the art of the seal from Daniel Theis:

8. After the game, several Celtics commented that Marcus Smart’s hustle is contagious and sets a tone. That’s on full display here. But, also, let’s chill a bit and not get hurt in the preseason!

9. Aaron Nesmith had to wait a bit to make his debut, but he showed up once he did. Nesmith’s first basket was this step-back three over the contest from Ben Simmons:

Early in the fourth quarter, Nesmith showed he’s not just a shooter. This was a nice bucket off a post-up over a smaller player:

Lastly, Nesmith showed good ability to recover and that he’s got decent length and athleticism. He gets beat off the bounce initially, but recovers to block the layup from Tyrese Maxey:

10. Overall, the Celtics were pretty sloppy, as was to be expected. There were flashes of good stuff, especially from the new players. Boston has one more preseason game to try and get things ironed out before opening the season on December 23 against the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo.