Booker and Jaylen Brown traded shots as part of a more in-depth look at Boston’s front line players and rotations on Sunday. Brad Stevens tightened his rotation to five starters, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye and Enes Kanter. In the second half, Romeo Langford showed strides as a possible eighth option off the bench that can provide defense and offense.
Boston’s three-game scrimmage slate set up three themes entering Friday’s opening seeding game against the Bucks. No. 1: A lower-rung battle for rotation minutes between Langford and Grant Williams — who shined against the Rockets regulars with a full-bench C’s unit on Tuesday.
No. 2: Gary Washburn’s scathing review of the C’s intensity calls into question Jayson Tatum’s readiness to assume the role he led the Celtics in March. If Kemba Walker restarts slow (we’ll find out fast since he scored 72 points against Milwaukee in two regular season games), he needs to come out as quickly as Brown did. March’s Tatum did not appear on Sunday, swaying between sloppy finishes and stellar spot-ups like it’s November.
No. 3: Can Kanter rotations suffice? He led Boston in scoring in the sloppy affair with the Thunder. Then on Sunday, the Suns shooters made the Celtics’ drop defense pay. Ricky Rubio and Booker set up attacks on him in the lane, while the pick-and-roll freed wing shooters like Dario Saric as Boston scrambled to seal the lane.
Stevens said Milwaukee could “break records” if the Celtics defend that way they have. That involves more than Kanter, but he handled his minutes well and it’s worth watching if he can continue to manage his defensive lapses. If not — where does Boston go after Daniel Theis? Which Williams?
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