With the loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers the Celtics Summer League squad will move on to the consolation round of the Summer League tournament to determine where they fall in the final seeding.
But The Summer League isn’t really about who wins and loses, it’s more about what you can learn from your young players and this closely contested game re-enforced a lot of what we’ve seen so far this Summer.
Jaylen Brown continued to showcase his athletic ability and explosiveness as a player. His play certainly indicating he could become key contributor for the Celtics this season and provided he continues to develop his game could become a key piece moving forward. The #3 pick from this year's draft finished the game with 25 points as well as 9 rebounds and a couple of steals.
Terry Rozier also continued to show his own development stepping more and more into his role as a floor general, he finished the game with 24 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds and a steal.
While Guerschon Yabusele has made those who questioned his selection at #16 start to question themselves with his play this Summer league and that continued in this game with the ‘dancing bear’ fast earning a reputation as a fan favourite. He finished with only 7 points and 8 rebounds but made his presence felt on both sides of the court regardless.
Abdel Nader has also impressed, playing well beyond his draft position and showing he possesses abilities and skills that could benefit the Celtics regular season roster. While Bentil and Jackson played fairly solidly but didn’t exactly 'breakout.' And R.J. Hunter continued to be competitive despite exiting early due to a sore wrist but this whole series he has seemed somewhat outshone by Boston’s fresher crop of rookies. Perhaps tellingly, James Young rode the bench for almost the entire game.
To open the scoring against the Cavs, Yabusele made the first bucket, setting the tone and putting everyone into a good rhythm for the rest of the game.
Most of the first half saw both sides trading buckets as the scoreline stayed fairly even. Brown showed an ability to work within the team structure better and stepped up his energy on defense. Overall he seems to have settled into his game more, taking it slow on possessions and paying closer attention to his teammates. While he struggled with his jump shot in the first half even missing a few from the charity stripe he finally started to finish on some of his layups.
Not to be outdone, Nader was particularly aggressive, showing up all over the court and displaying defensive intensity while also scoring some three-pointers as well as finding success driving to the lane. While Jordan Mickey gave some cause for hope for the #FreeMickey movement by blocking shots and staying alert.
Danny Ainge and Marcus Smart were both in attendance at the game and spoke highly of Boston’s prospects going forward. However they remained pretty tight-lipped about any plans for the future.
Boston held the lead for much of the first half but a final 15-4 run by the Cavs at the end of the second quarter gave Cleveland a slender two point lead to head back to the locker room with. Third-year player Jordan McRae put up 20 in the first half attributing his four straight games in double figures to "being aggressive."
The third quarter saw the Celtics find their fire, battling back and forth with the Cavaliers Summer squad for every possession.
Brown managed a long ball to tie up the game after the Celtics had been trailing and Yabusele got a big ‘grizzly bear’ dunk in shortly thereafter.
Following Yabusele’s high-flying antics Brown showed how to quickly convert defense to offense stealing the ball and sprinting down the other end with an uber-athletic dunk of his own. The #3 pick really stepped up in the second half with harassing defense and aggressive offense.
Yet most of the third quarter was all about pace and despite some athletic flourishes from Boston’s rookies and some aggressive play from Brown who got 11 points in just that quarter the Cavs led going into the fourth 72-65.
Strong defense and fast paced offense got the Celtics back into the game at the beginning of the fourth. With 6:20 left in the game Rozier made a high arcing floater that fell in after bouncing off the backboard, giving the Celtics a one-point lead as the Cavaliers took a timeout.
The score stayed pretty even down the stretch as the young players on both teams did their best to stay in it. Kay Felder led Cleveland’s Summer League squad in the second half with some impressive shooting.
But it was Nader who finally broke the deadlock, performing under pressure in a way most rookies simply can’t, with a solid three-pointer giving the Celtics a slender edge. But moments later a careless turnover from Brown gave the Cavs back the advantage.
Luckily the second year rookies Mickey and Rozier came up with a doozey of a play down the stretch, Mickey managed a surprise steal that he quickly passed to Rozier for an easy two. Following this play Mickey showed up again and got a monster block, but the Celtics couldn’t capitalise on the other end with Nader misfiring from three. The Cavs were able to convert on their end though and went up by three points with under a minute left on the clock.
The Celtics called a quick timeout to regroup and come up with a play to even the game down the stretch. Unfortunately nothing would take and the Celtics fell further behind.
A strong basket through contact by Brown who then delivered with the and-one gave the Celtics hope in the final seconds. But ultimately it wouldn’t be enough as the Cavs rookies continued to convert at the line putting the game just out of reach.
All in all, despite a few losses it was mostly positive news this Summer League and more than anything we’ve learned a lot about our young players and seen some stellar play that gives us all plenty of reasons to be excited about the Celtics' future.