Last night’s Celtics victory was yet another indicator that this team’s starting five may have one of the best offenses in the league next year. Against a strong Hornets defense, the Celtics were able to continue to move the ball well and maintain the great open looks they were creating against the Sixers. In order to save the team from the eventual second-unit collapse, Stevens opted to stagger some of the starters. Initially, the plan didn’t work out so well, as the Hornets reserves rushed to regain the lead. However, the Celtics used a strong second half to build another lead, and the second unit never looked back. Here’s how each player fared.
Isaiah Thomas (Stock: Same)
Stats: 15 points, 3/6 from three , 5 assists, +23
Thomas has been doing a solid job trying to make sure he gets his teammates involved. The Celtics starting unit provides so much spacing and so many opportunities that Thomas can pick and choose when he wants to score. After a wrist injury, though, I think he should be done for the rest of the preseason. It sounds weird, but Thomas has had issues with his wrists, and anyone who’s had a wrist injury knows that they can linger if not given time to heal.
Avery Bradley (Stock: Up)
Stats: 14 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, +23
My knock on Bradley has always been that at that size, he should be able to dribble and create for others. If this preseason is any indication of things to come, I might be getting my wish. Bradley looks confident creating out of the pick and roll, and he is even gaining confidence bringing the ball up the court. If Bradley can do this consistently, one guy he’ll help is Isaiah Thomas, who’s looked great as a three-point shooter off the catch.
Jae Crowder (Stock: Up)
Stats: 8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, +24 (Team-best)
Crowder not only set the tone with the starting unit, but he was also a crucial part on keeping the intensity up on the second unit as well. Crowder has continued to look like an even better player on the defensive end, and it’s clear he’s taking the wheel as the heart and soul of this Celtics team.
Al Horford (Stock: Forever up)
Stats: 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists , +23
For whatever reason, the Celtics completely neglected to get Horford enough touches in the first half, though the starting unit still looked great. To start out the second half, Boston made it a point to get Horford involved. He made some great reads out of the PnR and did this to Marvin Williams.
Amir Johnson (Stock: Silently Up)
Stats: 6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, +18
Another day of solid work for Amir Johnson. Stevens featured him in some second-unit lineups that didn’t work out too well in the first half, but to be fair, nothing worked for that second unit in the first half. With the starters, Johnson did an outstanding job against Roy Hibbert, holding him to 2 points and 5 rebounds on his way to a -26 night.
Marcus Smart (Stock: Up)
Stats: 8 points, 2 steals, 50% from field
Smart’s statistics weren’t anything eye-popping, but he showed a lot of mature offensive moves that we haven’t seen from him much before. Posted up against Marvin Williams in the first half, Smart went ahead and did this:
This, by Marcus Smart, was a pretty nice move. pic.twitter.com/H3MHHTwYDk— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) October 7, 2016
Then in the second half, he showed off a couple of smooth mid-range jumpers from the top of the key. One of them was even a step-back, which is something he was not doing his first two seasons in the league. Smart also did a great job running the second unit to the start the second half, and to me looked like the better point guard off the bench.
Terry Rozier (Stock: mini-up)
Stats: 14 points, 2/3 from three
“I just need to calm down and stick to my defensive principles”
That was Rozier during his postgame interview with Abby Chin. Rozier was awesome during the 4th quarter, when he was hitting some impressive looking jump shots and controlling the pace of the game. However, it’s the first half of the game that has me worried. Against an actual reserve point guard, Rozier wasn’t able to get anything going offensively and was mostly responsible for Ramon Sessions scoring 9 of his 11 points in his first nine minutes. This is the second consecutive game that Rozier has come out flat, and though he’s been able to rebound both times, he won’t always get a second chance to redeem himself against third- and fourth-string guys. Because he shot the ball well, I think he stock went up for the simple fact that if things go south with him running the point, he can play off-ball and still be useful.
Jaylen Brown (Stock: Steadily increasing)
Stats: 12 points 2/5 from three, 5 rebounds, +7 (best from 2nd unit)
I’ve consistently said that Brown’s playtime should worry one person only—Jonas Jerebko. Stevens had Brown playing the 3 alongside Crowder and the 4 in the second unit, and he looked fantastic. For a young kid who’s filled with athleticism it’s amazing to see how patient he is on both ends of the court.
Jaylen Brown is gonna be able to do some things. pic.twitter.com/phlBFFPwxh— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) October 7, 2016
A simple play like this captures Brown’s poise. As he glides down the court Brown keeps his head up, surveys all of his potential passing lanes, and when no one stops the ball, he dives in for the finish. Brown rarely breaks the offense trying to force anything, and he continues to play within himself rather than trying to do things he can’t. In the second half he was matched up against 6-foot-11 big Frank Kaminsky. Instead of getting in foul trouble, Brown hounded him from the half-court line and made some great ball denials whenever he tried to gain position. Tonight he basically doubled Jerebko’s minutes, and though Stevens hasn’t practiced Brown much at the 4 spot yet, he seems to be keen on the idea. Brown has yet to give him a reason to regret it.
Jonas Jerebko (Stock: Crashing)
Stats: 5 points, 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 6 fouls (11 minutes of action)
Jerebko is losing his minutes to Brown and had yet another sloppy preseason game. My one observation is that Jerebko has gotten away from just playing instinctually, and looks like he’s thinking a bit too much on the floor. He pump-faked a couple of shots that he usually takes without hesitation, and he doesn’t seem to be playing with the same energy that he once was. On such a competitive roster, it’ll be important for him to regain that playoff attitude, or he may start the season next to...
Tyler Zeller (Stock: Bear market)
Stats: 2 points, 5 rebounds, -12 (team-worst)
I don’t even know what to say anymore. Zeller just doesn’t fit this team’s identity, and I guess you can’t blame him because when he was acquired we didn’t have one. I just want to point out that I wanted to Festus Ezeli over Zeller, and he was shortly signed by the Trailblazers for LESS money than Zeller on similar years. To be fair, Zeller had a horrible preseason his first year here, but then he shortly turned into an average stater. The only problem this year is that there’s no way he’ll get that same opportunity, and he’s playing like he knows it.
James Young (Stock: Steady up)
Stats: 5 points, 6 rebounds
In round 2 of the #BattleFor15th, Young again was first bubble guy off the bench and this time had a tangible impact. He did have his usual lapses on defense that make you cringe, but he was aggressive on the boards and knocked down a couple of shots, which is more than anyone below him did.
R.J. Hunter (Stock: Same)
Stats: 3 points, 2 assits, 2 turnovers, 1 steal
Hunter came out tonight with a little bit better poise and looked more solid defensively than Young. His inability to really assert himself remains a consistent theme, and more and more people are starting to take note that he’s a “shooter” who can’t shoot. Game 2 was better than game 1, but it still wasn’t enough to justify keeping him over a guy who’s nearly two years younger and playing with more poise.
Jordan Mickey (Stock: Lukewarm)
Stats: 3 rebounds, 5:51 minutes
I will continue to stand by my comments that Mickey’s roster spot is nowhere near a lock. He was again one of the last guys to come off the bench, and he wasn’t able to make any impact. The most telling play was when he corralled an offensive rebound, and instead of kicking it out to a wide-open Jaylen Brown he forced up a funky post move that missed badly. Understandably, when you’re in for a limited amount of time, you have to try and make the most of your opportunity, but when guys like Zeller are nearly tripling your playtime despite playing poorly, there’s something wrong.
Demetrius Jackson (Stock: Maine)
Stats: 2 points
Jackson is going to be fun to watch in Maine. That’s all.