Boston got their first look at the Sixers in each team’s second preseason game. One of the major storylines going into this one was the development of Boston’s chemistry, especially between Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford. Against Charlotte, the Celtics were able to generate a lot of open shots off of their ball movement, but the shots weren’t falling. Tonight the ball movement was still there, and more shots were going down.
The starting lineup for Boston included Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum alongside Irving-Hayward-Horford, forming a small-ball combination. The Celtics switched on defense very effectively making things very difficult on the Sixers. Amir Johnson faced off against his old team and got the start at center for the Sixers. He finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.
Also, the matchup between Jayson Tatum and Markelle Fultz was an important narrative going into this matchup. However, Fultz did not play in the game. Boston will play Philadelphia on Monday, so maybe we’ll see these two rookies face off then. Tatum got the start for the Celtics and finished with nine points and five rebounds on 4-9 shooting. He looked a lot more comfortable and confident on the floor after a shaky debut against the Hornets.
Tatum hit his first three shots including an impressive fadeaway over JJ Redick in the first quarter. He turned his ankle in the second quarter after a rebound, but continued to play into the second half.
Irving finished the game with 21 points on 7-14 shooting, and played 21 minutes into the second half. He continued his strong passing from the first preseason game against Charlotte, and was nailing three after three either on spot ups or off a screen. There’s still an adjustment period going for Irving transitioning from an isolation role in Cleveland, but he has improved from the first preseason game.
Hayward played with way more confidence in tonight’s game with nine points and five assists in 23 minutes of playing time. He was looking for his shot off of screens and made a nice defensive play that led to a fast break bucket on the other end. Like Irving, Hayward is adjusting but improving with every game.
Marcus Smart continued his solid perimeter shooting with 11 points 4-6 from the field and 2-2 from three. His jump shot looks a lot better this season, and he looked very good in the pick and roll either scoring or finding an open teammate. Smart also made a great play ripping the ball from Richaun Holmes and diving on the floor for the steal.
“Hello, my name is Marcus Smart and I struggle with understanding the difference between the second preseason game and a Game 7” pic.twitter.com/nqGoSvrYxx— Celtics Junkies (@CelticsJunkies) October 7, 2017
Aron Baynes continued his strong play this preseason posting 12 points and five rebounds. He hit the glass hard and even took two charges on defense. The short mid range jump shot off the pick is a shot that Baynes looks very comfortable with, so he certainly won’t be a liability on offense. It finally seems like the Celtics have a big, bruising big man that can give them quality minutes against more traditional lineups.
Other highlights from the game included Jaylen Brown’s dunk on Robert Covington and Daniel Theis’ block in the fourth quarter. The Celtics’ reserves didn’t look as good tonight as they did against Charlotte. Shane Larkin and Abdel Nader had trouble getting the offense in rhythm, which contributed to turnovers and easy buckets for the Sixers. However, they were able to finish things and close out the Sixers in the closing moments.
The Celtics’ main rotation looked a little more fluid in what they were trying to accomplish on both ends of the floor. On Monday when they face the Sixers again, we’ll see if Boston can continue to build off of their play from previous outings.