1. It wasn’t a banner day for Jayson Tatum, as he was ejected after playing 29 minutes. It appeared to be a fairly soft ejection, but perhaps it’s a sign that officials won’t deal with a steady stream of complaints from the Celtics star this season.
Tatum still got in some solid plays. This floater through contact would be a nice shot for Tatum to have in his bag:
Later in the first half, Tatum did a good job working the Raptors zone to find Grant Williams for a triple:
And this was a classic Tatum shot. If he draws a smaller defender, Tatum is going to rise and fire right over them:
2. Jaylen Brown did his thing again. He looks primed for a big season. On this shot, you could almost hear Mike Gorman saying “Fakes it, takes it, makes it”:
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you probably know about apparating. It’s when a person disappears from one spot and appears in another. Brown apparated for this layup with a nifty dribble move:
3. Derrick White has had an outstanding preseason. His shot looks both quicker and smoother after an offseason of work. If White can knock down threes like he has in the preseason, actions like this are unstoppable.
Jaylen Brown is the ballhandler to start the play, Al Horford screens for Brown before flipping to set a flare screen for Jayson Tatum. If you don’t rotate or switch, Brown is going to have a lane to the rim, while Horford pulls the big out of the paint. If you do rotate or switch, Tatum is going to find himself open or with a nice matchup. If you double the ballhandler, Horford pops for the jumper or rolls to the lane. Meanwhile, White being a threat will open up the floor too. Knocking them down like this will help:
White is also just a super active player. He’s always doing something. This follow on a missed free throw is a great example:
Let your guard down, and Boston has a bunch of guys who are going to make you pay.
4. Joe Mazzulla said pregame that he was going to work a regular season rotation for most of the game. Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and Marcus Smart started. Malcolm Brogdon and Grant Williams were the primary reserves, while Blake Griffin and Sam Hauser saw minutes too.
It seems like that group is going to be Mazzulla’s nine-man rotation for now. Luke Kornet may break in when he’s up to speed. Payton Pritchard is going to see minutes when a fourth guard is needed. And, of course, Rob Williams will be back eventually.
While it’s good to know who your main guys are, it’s important that Mazzulla doesn’t overtax them early in the season. Kornet and Pritchard should both see regular action. They are good enough to hold their own, and it will help keep minutes down for the veteran players.
5. Grant Williams’ ability to execute in Boston’s switching scheme is huge. This was excellent defense against Scotti Barnes to end the third quarter:
Williams kept Barnes in front of him, which is no easy task, and then contested the step-back jumper without fouling. Being able to play 25-30 minutes on a regular basis will be huge for Williams, in what may very likely end up being a contract year.
6. Blake Griffin isn’t BLAKE GRIFFIN anymore. He’s not jumping over any Kias again. But he just knows how to play. It’s about smarts and positioning for Griffin now. He’ll need to knock down jumpers to be a part of the Celtics playoff rotation. But plays like this are Griffin using his basketball IQ to make an impact:
Right place, right time, with soft hands. That’s good stuff from Griffin.
7. It was a weird preseason for Marcus Smart. At times, it seemed like Smart was almost going through the motions. But you know what? That’s OK. He plays so hard and expends so much of his energy and his body in the regular season, there’s no reason to go too hard in games that don’t count.
Despite getting nicked up a couple of times in this game, Smart seems to be ready to go. That’s huge, as he’s the Celtics heart and soul and will be a huge part of another Finals run.
8. It seems like Joe Mazzulla is going to lean on some smaller lineups. Mostly out of necessity while Rob Williams is out, but also to get more of the Celtics best players on the court at once.
Something to keep an eye on with those smaller lineups is defensive rebounding. It was a major problem against the Raptors and Hornets in the preseason games. The guards and wings have to give Al Horford and the other bigs more help on the boards. Timelord isn’t there to clean everything up for the first couple of months. Going against the big Philadelphia 76ers on opening night will be a good test of the rebounding ability.
9. It appears that Noah Vonleh and Justin Jackson have won the final two roster spots after a fun camp battle that included six players at its peak. Vonleh has a role as a depth big, and he’s performed well when called upon. Jackson has been more up-and-down, but he’s been better than Jake Layman, who seemed to be his primary competitor for a spot.
In addition, Justin Jackson was not signed to an Exhibit 10 contract, so he can’t be shuttled off to the G League as an Affiliate Player. Layman was signed to an Exhibit 10 deal, so his immediate future may lie with the Maine Celtics.
10. Preseason is finished. Next time it counts. The Celtics are title contenders. Some even still have them installed as title favorites. All the pieces are there for Boston to make a Finals run, and to finish the job this time.
Everything gets started on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are also a title contender, so it’s a great first test and measuring stick for both Boston and Philadelphia to open the season.
Stay tuned to CelticsBlog as we cover what we all hope will again be a season where the guys in green are playing deep into June.