For their first preseason game at the TD Garden the Boston Celtics faced off against division rivals the Brooklyn Nets #netspick.
The two teams met already this preseason in a surprisingly close contest where the Celtics were able to eke out a victory. Back at their home-court the Celtics looked a lot more dominant as they defeated the Nets in a laugher 120-99.
With the regular season just around the corner the Celtics, like many teams, are using the preseason as an opportunity to finalise their rotations. However there is a certain sense of urgency for Boston as besides simply co-ordinating new players, like Horford and Brown, into the linuep the Celtics also have to make some tough decisions with the final call on the fifteenth roster spot still looming.
Brad Stevens, obviously aware of the need to commit to a fifteenth man spoke prior to today’s game about how he’s trying to give the bench as many minutes during the preseason as possible saying, “We want our younger guys to get a lot of experience during these games.”
This commitment to Boston’s youth movement was obvious early in the game with many of Boston’s younger players getting plenty of burn in this matchup against Brooklyn.
Nonetheless, the starting five for the Celtics was as expected and featured Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson and Al Horford, with Horford playing his first game in green in front of a true home-court crowd.
After a sloppy start to begin the game that saw both sides turnover the ball several times, Avery Bradley opened up the scoring for the Celtics with a wide open three-pointer from the top of the arc. Showcasing his development as an attacking guard, Bradley immediately followed up the long-ball with a driving layup continuing his improved form during preseason play.
Most of the starters were pretty solid during the first quarter. Isaiah Thomas played a bit more aggressively than he has been during the preseason, winding his way to the bucket and cutting to the rim with some impressive moves.
First the crossover, then the finish through contact - Isaiah can do it all: pic.twitter.com/SqR76nzan4— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 17, 2016
Al Horford was characteristically consistent, rebounding, scoring and providing solid spacing. And the Celtics resident ball hawk, Jae Crowder seems raring to go for the regular season. The Celtics starters generally worked well together despite the fact that they were still clearly trying to perfect their passing and team play with several obvious efforts made to commit to the extra pass.
Marcus Smart came in early in the first quarter and made an immediate impact grabbing a rebound straight after coming from the bench and providing an assist to Crowder in the same play. Not long after Smart entered the game he was followed by Terry Rozier who managed a nifty stepback jumper before the first quarter ended and the Celtics went into the second with a strong 13-point lead.
Rozier gets fancy with the behind-the-back dribble and cans the stepback J. Watch it again: pic.twitter.com/U3WZmj2GcU— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 18, 2016
Entering the second quarter the Celtics seemed to have created enough separation to allow Stevens to tinker with the lineups and tryout some unconventional units.
In his homecoming game Gerald Green wasted no time, scoring as soon as he walked onto the court in the second quarter. Green has shown that his veteran leadership is exactly what the second unit needs as he brings canny court-vision and an aggressive attitude to Boston’s bench. Meanwhile rookie Jaylen Brown entered the game to applause from the TD Garden crowd, but may have been a little overexcited as he rushed his opening shot and struggled to find his form on offense for most of the first half.
Some messy play and what could be described as over-officiating slowed down the game in the second quarter as the Celtics ran into foul trouble fairly early. But Boston battled through and finished the half leading Brooklyn 62-50, with the starting unit shooting 70% from the field and Isaiah Thomas recording 19 points after shooting 6 of 6 from the field.
True to his word, Stevens started the second half with an assemblage of rookies and bench players. Unfortunately they gave up the Celtics double-digit lead early and found themselves just barely holding on against the Nets.
Yet the young guns managed to find their form and the rookie unit battled back as the fight for the fifteenth roster spot inspired some standout play from the likes of James Young and RJ Hunter. Meanwhile Brown did his best to bring the home crowd to their feet his high-flying antics.
Just as impressive, Terry Rozier showcased some of the moves that got people so excited during Summer League.
Terry Rozier just hit Brooklyn with this smooth scoop-and-score: pic.twitter.com/uRTsv0cupu— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 18, 2016
Whether it was Brown’s earth-shattering dunks, Rozier’s crafty plays, or Hunter and Young going back and forth with their newfound knock-down shooting the Celtics bench unit managed to extend the lead to 18 at the end of the third quarter.
With a solid lead going into the final bracket, the fourth quarter saw Stevens dig deeper into the bench. Almost everyone currently on-contract got a few minutes on-the-court for this game, and most of them were pretty impressive making the final call over the fifteenth roster spot all the more difficult.
Overall it was a great game for the Celtics. After struggling to put Brooklyn away in their first preseason game, the Celtics were much more dominant in front of the TD Garden crowd. The starters looked strong, and have been looking strong every time they’re together, whereas the bench unit seem to be finding their form and becoming more reliable. Once the fifteenth roster spot is finalised the bench will likely be even better and this team will have one of the strongest rotations in the league.
At least in this game Boston’s depth was too much for team Brook-Lin to overcome as the hyper-competitive Boston bench beat the Nets 120-99.
Oh yeah and by the way we had our first Gino sighting of the season, something tells me it won’t be the last.