In the first Celtics game of the season, the teams stars showed how deadly their offensive potential could be, while the back end of their rotation struggled down the stretch and gave us flashbacks of last year’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Round two figures to have a few new development with Al Horford sitting out with a sore wrist and the status of Marcus Smart still up in the air after he sat out the first game for personal reasons. Neither of them will appear to be anything to worry about going forward, but it does allow Stevens to give some more minutes to some of the back end depth. With that being said, let’s get into some things to watch for tonight.
1. Robert Williams
His stats really won’t jump out at you (3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals in 9 minutes), but his activity at both ends was very encouraging.
Here you go for extended highlights: https://t.co/DHZtok64HG— Tomek Kordylewski (@Timi_093) September 29, 2018
Williams was a willing screener who was active on the boards and even showed some glimpses as a passer. Williams profiles as a player who at his best can provide similar things to Rockets’ Clint Capela. Those type of talents are maximized being surrounded with great playmakers where their lob threat ability put immense pressure on defenses when they dive to the hoop. It may not happen tonight, but I do think Stevens may explore pairing him with Irving or Hayward to see what he can do with some of the core members of the team.
2. Semi Ojeleye
In 23 minutes, Ojeleye was 0/8 from the field, including 0/7 from three. The good news? The looks were open and he confidently shot them. The bad news? As a bubble guy on the fringe of the rotation, Ojeleye needs to show that if called upon he can come and provide a specific value. At this stage, defense is his calling card (though he got beat a couple of times in the 4th quarter), but not being able to space the floor really limits how long a coach can keep you on the floor. That rings even more true when the player doesn’t provide much in the way of playmaking ability.
3. Bombs away?
The Celtics figure to be a team that will shoot a bunch of 3’s throughout the year because, you know, modern NBA and all that. However, the Celtics launched 47 three’s in their first matchup only hitting 9 of them. By comparison, the Rockets led the league in 3-point shooting by a sizable margin and averaged 42 3PA.
Obviously there’s some noise in that. It’s the preseason and guys are trying to find their rhythm and not force the issue too hard. I would like to see some more offensive diversity though.
4. Moving the ball
This one is a little difficult because it requires a balance of understanding a player’s role. I thought the starting five was fantastic offensively, especially Jaylen Brown who was aggressive early and often. On the flip side, Brown, Tatum, or Hayward didn’t register a single assist and there were a lot of instances where Hayward would go minutes without touching the ball. A big part of that were guys taking quick shots without the offense developing. There’s some preseason qualifying stuff in there. Guys are trying to get in rhythm, teams aren’t using an expanded playbook, etc. However, I do think working a little deeper into the shot clock and swinging the ball more consistently in the half court can lead to all players getting an equal chance at feeling out their way throughout the game.
5. The Third Quarter
Despite the Celtics racing out to a 15-point lead at the half, the team came out in flat in the second half and promptly gave it all back by the time the teams core exited the game for good. Preseason or not, I'm sure Stevens is going to address coming out of the half strong and I'd be willing to bet that no matter who starts the second half, there will be a heightened energy level.