It was yet another fourth quarter collapse for the Boston Celtics as they suffer their worst loss of the season to date. The team was up 24 points in the third quarter and could not hang on as the offense went completely stagnant.
There will be lots of analysis and breakdowns of how the Celtics blew the lead, but instead it is important to highlight a bright spot: rookie Aaron Nesmith and his adjustment to the NBA finally looking like a solid rotation player. He has strung together a few of his best games of the season, and in this game, he really put the pieces all together. The goal for him in his rookie season is to be a serviceable rotation player who is not a liability on the floor. After some growing pains getting used to NBA speed, he has shown promise giving full effort and energy.
Against the Pelicans, Nesmith finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, and added 2 steals as well in a solid two-way performance. The past five games, Stevens has started giving minutes to Nesmith for him to contribute on a more consistent level. He has become more confident with his ball handling that was shown off multiple times in this game. Before he may not have taken over himself, but now, he is able to attack the rim fighting through contact or traffic.
He drives by Reddick and gets the and-1 which was a helpful basket when the Celtics were in a scoring drought. His primary attribute is his knock down shooting. It is why he went in first round and what the Celtics are hopeful to see more of. With that, plus the confidence and skill to handle the dribble handoff, it is exciting to see what he will bring.
This full effort and energy can be better seen in the defensive end of his game. Nesmith was very impressive getting into multiple plays resulting in turnovers. He was out there diving on the court giving himself up for the ball. It was as if Nesmith took a class at the School of Marcus Smart.
Nesmith leaves his man to strip Lonzo Ball as he is driving to the rim. The basketball IQ is there to know where to be and how to get there to impact the possession. Then, when the ball is loose on the floor, he makes the play to get their first. That effort and mentality is noticeable and will continue getting him minutes. A few nights ago, Tristan Thompson described his mentality as “ferocious.” The rookie understands his role and giving everything to play better.
With all first year players, there will be major growing pains. Aaron Nesmith is still a work in progress. He still makes the boneheaded moves that will iron themselves out over time. However, Nesmith is already taking a step up as a role contributor on this team. Stevens now should play him around the 20-minute mark consistently going forward. With guys like him and Pritchard figuring it out, the Celtics could be set up nicely with depth this season. Sometimes even in tough losses, it is important to take away the positives as well.