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Celtics fall to Knicks 121-96. On to the regular season.

Smart injury puts a damper on largely good preseason

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Celtics had two goals for the preseason finale: get out of the gym healthy, and see who could step forward to take the 15th roster spot. The first goal was a failure, and the second remains an open question. The final score was barely a concern, and the Knicks rolled after opening a big lead in the 3rd quarter behind Kristaps Porzingis and Courtney Lee.

The big news from the night is that Marcus Smart was injured later in the second quarter. He rolled his ankle after stepping on Justin Holiday’s foot while driving the lane. Early reports are Smart may miss up to two weeks, which means he’ll miss the first handful of games to open the season.

The good news is that Terry Rozier looked more than ready to step in take some of the backup point guard minutes. He scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half. Most encouraging was that he went 3 for 4 from three, only missing a heave to end the first quarter. Perhaps due to Smart’s injury, Rozier did not play in the second half.

With Amir Johnson the only starter to play—and he only made a cameo appearance in the first half—Porzingis had his way with the Celtics. He scored 20 points in just 23 minutes. Neither Jonas Jerebko nor Jaylen Brown could handle him inside. Don’t be discouraged though, as neither would likely see much time on him in a regular season game.

As for the pillow fight (I refuse to call it a battle) for the 15th spot, James Young and R.J. Hunter largely played to a draw. Young was aggressive going to the basket and finished with 8 points. He also grabbed 7 rebounds. Hunter shot it slightly better and closed with 12 points. Neither player really did much on the defensive end, as usual. This one still isn’t really over.

Ben Bentil chipped in with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block. He was active on both ends and shows a nice scoring touch. He hasn’t really shown enough to lay claim to a roster spot. Bentil will almost assuredly head to Maine and hone his craft in the D-League.

Jaylen Brown had an up-and-down game as he closed his first professional preseason. His jumper was off all night, but he attacked the basket often and got to the line 10 times. Unfortunately his foul shot was as off as his jumper, and he made just 5 FTs. He struggled to handle the much bigger Porzingis when he played as a small ball 4, but that was to be expected. Overall, Brown had a terrific preseason and showed he is ready to be a contributor during the regular season.

Jordan Mickey closed with a relatively strong effort with 10 points, 7 rebounds (5 offensive) and 2 blocks. With Kelly Olynyk still out of the lineup, Mickey may have a chance to grab some minutes early in the year. Tonight’s performance could give Brad Stevens confidence that he can handle it if called upon.

Overall, the preseason went well for Boston. They finished 5-2, and the starters looked dominant at times. They avoided any major injuries, though the Smart ankle sprain is a downer. Most importantly, Al Horford fit in seamlessly, and the Celtics seem poised for a big year. On to the regular season.

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