With the first round of the 2016 NBA Las Vegas Summer League tournament set to begin tomorrow, the summer Celtics tonight took on the Dallas Mavericks at the Cox Pavilion at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The starting lineup of Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, R.J. Hunter, and Jordan Mickey faced off against a Mavs team headlined by Justin Anderson.
The Celtics faltered out of the gate as the Mavs went up by a few buckets early, and their production was demonstrative of summer league as a whole—stretches of ho-hum play punctuated by flashes of excellence. Jordan Mickey swatted a Mavs shot attempt like a volleyball, but was whistled for goaltending. Jaylen Brown missed a long two-pointer, but a smart deflection led to a Mavs turnover on the other end. Guerschon Yabusele showed a few high-effort plays, including a spin-move pass to Mickey for a basket and the foul, as well as drawing a jump-ball whistle after a loose ball.
In the early going, it looked to be another so-so and underwhelming showing for No. 3 draft pick Jaylen Brown. After an impressive steal from Rozier, Brown botched an easy layup in transition, and Celtics fans sighed as they resigned themselves to the prospect of another middling summer league performance from the former Cal player. However, Brown promptly bucked that trend with an emphatic, poster-worthy dunk over Satnam Singh, raising his hand in triumph after coming back down to earth. Brown’s dunk capped a 13-3 run to end the quarter with Boston up 19-14.
That highlight-reel moment perhaps injected a shot of confidence into Brown’s game, as he started off the second quarter with a veritable parade to the free-throw line over several possessions. After only two full minutes into the second quarter, Brown was already stepping up for his eighth and ninth free-throw attempts of the game. Brown also nailed a smooth baseline fadeaway jumper over one of the summer Mavs to put the Celtics up by eight, demonstrating flashes of a latent shooting prowess that Boston fans hope will blossom over the next few years. Brown finished the half with 12 points on 2-of-6 shooting.
Other second-quarter highlights included a (sadly) rare three-pointer from perennial summer league presence James Young and a hard pick from Mickey to level the Mavs’ Jonathan Gibson, who came up rubbing his head. Gibson saved face at the end of the quarter, though, when he made a weakside tip-in with time expiring to finish the half as the game’s leading scorer with 13 points. The teams entered halftime with the Celtics up by just one point after Gibson’s last-second basket.
Rozier opened the second-half scoring with a corner three for his tenth point of the game. Rozier continued to dazzle in transition, finishing one third-quarter bucket with a pretty finger roll that mirrored a basket from a previous summer league outing over the weekend. Hunter also tried to make some offense happen in the quarter’s opening minutes, but he continued to get jostled around by the Mavericks defense, unable to penetrate for buckets. He fared a little better when he stayed out of the paint, knocking down an open three and just missing another a few possessions later.
After another botched layup early in the quarter, Brown also settled down and began finally finishing his attempts—albeit wide open ones—at the rim on consecutive possessions. Brown’s baskets put the Celtics ahead 55-43, earning Boston’s largest lead of the game and prompting a timeout from the Mavs.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, one of the highlights of the fourth quarter came from the Mavs. The Celtics had a 2-on-1 advantage in transition, and James Young passed to Abdel Nader to set him up for what would have been a dunk to rival Jaylen Brown’s from earlier in the game. Justin Anderson, savvy summer league veteran that he is, sprinted down the court to swat away Nader’s dunk attempt, eliciting a strong reaction from the Cox Pavilion crowd and denying Nader.
Despite Anderson’s denial of Nader, the fourth quarter mostly belonged to the Celtics, as Boston cruised to a sixteen-point lead with just under six minutes to go in the game. Aside from Boston’s summer league standouts such as Rozier and Yabusele, Holy Cross’s own Malcolm Miller also contributed some solid offensive efforts for the Celtics.
As the game wound down, the Mavs used a nine-point spurt from Justin Anderson to cut the lead to single digits, but Jaylen Brown’s fourteenth and fifteenth free-throw attempts helped stem Dallas’s late offensive push. Anderson did all that he could to keep the game within striking distance for the Mavs, including blocking an attempted alley-oop between Rozier and Brown. Jonathan Gibson also submitted an impressive effort for Dallas, finishing the game with 26 points.
In the end, the Celtics were able to maintain their separation from the Mavs and secure the win, 88-82. Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown led the Boston offense with 26 and 20 points, respectively. Malcolm Miller also pitched in, keeping two late Boston offensive possessions alive to preserve the lead. The Celtics were helped by spending a large amount of time at the free-throw line, attempting 47 free throws over the course of the 40-minute contest. Brown once again scored a significant amount of his points at the charity stripe, making 12 of 17 free throws. For the Mavs, Justin Anderson posted a game-high 29 points in the losing effort.
The Celtics will enter Las Vegas Summer League tournament play with a 1-2 record. They will find out who their first opponent is sometime after the remainder of tonight’s summer league games.