1. The Boston Celtics sat a lot of rotation regulars against the Charlotte Hornets. Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart all sat out of the starting group, while Malcolm Brogdon was also given the night off. Mfiondu Kabengele was also off, perhaps cementing his status as a Two-Way player.
Yet, despite the absences, the Celtics still controlled the game by early in the third quarter. Boston is deep with productive players. There are lots of guys who can step in and play a role when others are out. That depth will be important during the regular season, especially after a long playoff run. In addition, with several veterans and some players coming back from injury, Joe Mazzulla may work in some rest days. That’s where the depth will really show up.
2. Thus far, Derrick White has started all three preseason games. Without locking into anything, it seems like there is a good chance White will be part of the starting group on opening night. His defensive versatility and ball movement is a nice addition to the current starters. White has also knocked down 5-of-12 three-pointers in the preseason, showing improved form on his jumper.
White also brings a pretty versatile scoring game. This nifty up-and-under got things started for Boston:
The Celtics want to push pace this year. That’s been a preseason emphasis. That suits White’s game very well, as he’s very good at attacking the rim like this in the open floor:
3. Again, without locking into anything, it seems like Noah Vonleh has a very strong case for a roster spot with Boston to open the season. The Celtics need some additional depth up front, and Vonleh has played well throughout training camp. He got the start against the Hornets and made the most of it.
First off, it’s nice to see Sam Hauser make a play as a passer off the screen game. Then Vonleh does a good job getting his left shoulder into Mason Plumlee to create space for the jump hook:
Once again, White pushes pace here. Vonleh fills the lane and shows good skill and composure to take the dribble before spinning into the lefty finish at the basket:
Vonleh finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. He’s made the strongest case for a roster spot out of any of the camp invitees.
4. Jaylen Brown played (to keep his rhythm according to Joe Mazzulla) and scored an easy 19 points. His three-pointer looks as good right now as it ever has. This is a nice screen and re-screen for Brown by Noah Vonleh, and Brown ends up with the four-point play:
5. Grant Williams has shown increased confidence in his off-the-dribble game in the preseason. If he draws a slow-footed big, like he does Mason Plumlee here, Williams can attack that mismatch. This is good stuff to draw the and-1:
Boston lost a big who could attack mismatches when Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL. If Williams can carry over this sort of play to the regular season, Boston may have another way to attack switching defenses.
6. Blake Griffin made his Celtics debut. He looked a little rusty early on, but that’s to be expected. It’s going to take a bit for Griffin to get his timing down with his new team. But he looked good physically and did a nice job screening, moving the ball and on the boards.
This shot is going to be there for Griffin. Boston’s scoring weapons will open things up for him. Griffin just has to knock them down:
7. Sam Hauser got the start and did what he’s done all preseason long: he made threes. Hauser is also holding his own defensively. He’s not a good defender, but with Boston usually playing anywhere from three to four excellent defenders, Hauser will be fine. He just has to work hard and be active.
There are far less worries about the offensive end. Thus far, Hauser has done most of his work as a spot-up shooter. This is a good example of smart timing to tip out the rebound before relocating for the corner three. Also, Hauser does a great job of catching and getting square quickly for the triple:
8. The potential end-of-bench roster battle was ugly against the Toronto Raptors. The players fighting for a roster spot struggled mightily as Boston gave away a big lead and lost.
This time around, many of those players were better. Jake Layman saw early run and delivered. While the record scratch isn’t great (Layman needs to have confidence to pull the shot without hesitating), hitting the jumper is necessary for Layman to have a shot at a roster spot:
9. Justin Jackson was a mess against Toronto. He really, really struggled. It was a complete 180 against Charlotte for Jackson. Jackson hit 4-of-8 from deep, including three consecutive possessions where he knocked down triples. This was the last of the bunch, as Jackson confidently stepped into his shot here:
(As an aside: This was one of Payton Pritchard’s seven assists. He’s done a nice job running the offense this preseason vs being simply an off-ball shooter).
For any of the guys battling for a roster spot, they need to defend. If you can’t hold your own defensively, the Celtics won’t play you, and may not keep you. Plays like this one from Jackson show he’s willing to work on the defensive end of the court:
10. The Celtics have a week off between their third and fourth, and final, preseason game. That’s invaluable practice time for Joe Mazzulla. Ideally, Luke Kornet will be back in the mix, and Blake Griffin will get lots of reps with his new team too.
It’s also the last chance for the camp players to show they deserve more consideration. Many of them will land in Maine, but that’s fine. They’ll be only a stone’s throw away if needed.
Don’t be surprised if Boston makes some roster moves prior to Friday’s preseason finale. Teams don’t always carry the full complement of 20 players into the final exhibition, and the Celtics are also traveling to Montreal to face the Raptors. That’s an additional bit of a complication to deal with, being that they have to cross the border. It’s possible we could see some cuts coming this week.