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Thomas, Horford sit, but Celtics reserves shine

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Celtics sweep Hornets in two game series

NBA: Preseason-Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

After a couple of shaky stints from the second unit, Smart and co. put together one of the most impressive games of the preseason in a 104-86 win over the Hornets. With Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Amir Johnson, and Al Horford getting a rest, the Celtics handed the keys to Marcus Smart. Other starters included Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, Tyler Zeller, and Gerald Green in his first game. On the Hornets’ side it was the normal starters minus Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum. The game started off slowly with the Celtics’ defense swarming the Hornets offense, but Boston was unable to score much on the other end. Crowder was the primary lifeline of offense in that first quarter, scoring 7 of the team’s 18 first-quarter points before resting for the rest of the game. Michael Kidd-Glicrest looked like the best player on the floor for the Hornets, getting his nose in what felt like every play and leading his team in scoring at the end of the quarter. His jumpshot, though not appealing, looks improved from the last time I watched him, and his hitch appears to be all the way gone.

In the second quarter, Rozier was given his shot to run the offense. He was off to a strong start with 4 points, 2 rebounds, and an assist before a Christian Wood elbow to the lip ended his night early in the second quarter.

When Smart ran came back in the game in his second stint as the primary point guard, he was a lot more poised. He pestered Kemba Walker, fought Roy Hibbert on the boards, connected on a three off the dribble, and by halftime found himself outplaying a borderline All-Star.

Jaylen Brown, who had a rough game altogether, was still able to sneak into the highlight reel with this beautiful slam off a steal.

In the second half, the same starting unit came out with the exception of Jae Crowder who was replaced by Jonas Jerebko. Green finally found his mark in the third quarter with a couple of nice drives to the basket and mid-range pull-ups off the pick. Green ended up finishing the game with 13 points. However, the biggest surprise may have been Zeller, who after two mediocre outings found his midrange jumpshot, and made some great contests on the defensive end. With Green and Zeller finding their offense, the unit looked great out of the third quarter, and came out of the third quarter with an 18-point lead.

The fourth quarter featured a heavy dose of bubble-team guys like Young, Hunter, and Mickey along with rookie point guard Demetrius Jackson as both teams cleared out their benches. While Young struggled to find himself offensively, Hunter had his best game of the preseason, going for 10 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, a team-high +17, and this filthy play:

Mickey also had a coming-out party of sorts, going for 16 points and 6 rebounds, showing off a nice mid-range jumper and doing a great job diving to the basket. Both players were hell-bent on getting themselves back on the positive side of the depth chart, and each put together a better game than James Young has had in his Celtics career. Another solid surprise was Demetrius Jackson, who finished with 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. The bouncy guard controlled the tempo of the offense and showed real value as a possible insurance policy. In the end, the Celtics reserves showed more good than bad on their way to a convincing victory.