A lot of people believe that when the schedule was made for the NBA Vegas Summer League, Wednesday’s headline matchup between the Celtics and the Team China was supposed to showcase Yi Jianlian, playing for his national team against his new one. Alas, as we now know, the Celtics traded their first round draft pick and change for Ray Allen, which allowed Yi to be drafted by the Bucks instead, much to his chagrin.
But the games are still played, unless you are Greg Oden, at least, and the C’s prevailed by a score of 80-52. Yi failed to make an immediate impression, airballing his initial attempt (a hook shot, about 5 feet from the basket) and scoring his only two first quarter points on a couple free throws. Yi’s only field goal until the 7:56 mark of the third quarter. Of course part of that can be blamed on fatigue, as China was playing its fifth game in six days so they could finish up their schedule and get out of town. Or The United States. The Celtics, by comparison, played just their third game since the league started on Friday.
The Celtics built an 18-point lead at the half, behind Leon Powe, who had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Powe finished with a double double of 23 and 12. Rajon Rondo came out of the gate blazing scoring the first 8 points for Boston, showing a desire to take the ball to the basket that was absent in his first two games. After the game, Coach Armond Hill talked about the different look Rondo exhibited.
"I just told Rondo to see where he has the opportunity, and if he has the opportunity, take it. And there was a time in that game when he just said, ‘They can’t stop me full court,’" Hill explained. "And he started attacking, penetrating, finding people, going to the basket, and that’s what we want him to do."
Hill said that after Monday’s loss to the Spurs summer squad, he gave Rondo a tape of the game, not for the sake of taking apart the point guards’ play, but to demonstrate his lack of a rhythm. Against China, Rondo certainly found one.
"He was looking for everybody, and that’s what we want him to do," Hill said. [Before tonight] He was looking to execute but when he would penetrate, he wasn’t looking for himself.
"In order to be a threat, you’ve got to put that [opposing] guy on his heels and you’ve got to look for the basket, and then when they come, then you do it. He was looking to pass, cause he’s unselfish, and you can’t say nothing about a point guard who’s unselfish but he has to be able to see what his chances are."
Boston took advantage of the tired Chinese legs by pushing the ball at every opportunity. The team took great pains to get Gerald Green going. The rising third year player hadn’t shot well since the first quarter of the first game on Friday and missed his first seven shots. Rondo constantly found Green in the third, and, after a number of drives, the high flyer finally rewarded the crowd with a thunderous dunk to give the C’s a 24-point lead. Green had 6 points in the quarter and 10 for the game.
With only Wang Zhizhi (18 points) having prior NBA time, the exhausted Chinese were no match for the, by comparison, experienced Celtics. By the end of the third quarter, the Celtics had a 25-point lead; the route was on and the scrubs came in. The Celtics outpouring of points visibly slowed down after that, but China, who had held tough in the opening quarter when they were only down 4, could not stop the lead from expanding.
Big Baby Glen Davis filled up the paint and the stat sheet, with 10 points, 11 rebounds, 8 fouls and 6 turnovers. Rondo had 12 points and the summer league wonderkid, newly signed Brandon Wallace had 2 points, 5 rebounds and six assists. Zhizhi led China with 18 points and Yi had 7 points, 5 rebounds and 8 personal fouls.