Head coach Joe Mazulla made it clear before the game that he wanted to see what his top players look like together during preseason. From curtain to curtain, the stars did not disappoint in the 13-point victory.
The Celtics sprinted out of the gate, scoring 55 points in the first 15 minutes. They shot 12-for-21 from three during that stretch, fueling what could be one of the league’s most potent offenses this season.
The first sequence of the game contained an easy Kristaps Porzingis corner three over Mitchell Robinson, followed by a block by Jayson Tatum – leading to a Derrick White transition three.
Porzingis and Tatum kept the energy going from the frontcourt, combining for 36 points in the first half, shooting 64% from three, and working on the offensive boards.
Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, and Jaylen Brown joined Tatum and Porzingis in the starting lineup, potentially signaling the starters Mazzulla might use when the season starts. The fivesome seemed to forget it was just the preseason to start the game, with playoff-level intensity and pace. Boston scored 78 points in the first half.
It wasn’t all good news. They also gave up 60 points in that half to a Knicks team without Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, or RJ Barrett. To quote NBC Boston’s Brian Scalibrine on the broadcast: “if it was the playoffs, I would be upset.” But it isn’t, so I’m not.
Boston’s offense cooled down from three in the third quarter, completing only 3. Mazzulla remained committed to going way too hard for preseason though, playing the stars through the quarter and picking up a technical foul. In fairness to Mazzulla, the officials were pretty loose with the ‘T’s and handed one to Brown in the first half.
Tatum finished with 28 points and 8 rebounds, drilled a bunch of pull-up threes, and played physical on both ends. Porzingis chipped in with 20 and 8, and Brown scored an easy 17 without dominating the ball. Jrue Holiday, though he didn’t overload the stat sheet (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals), was an on-ball hound and showed how great Boston’s defense can be once everything gels. Calling out switches and talking between plays, he seems to be sliding into his role as quarterback of the defense.
The understudies took over in the fourth, though Porzingis and Al Horford remained in the game for half of that quarter. During that stretch, we saw the beginnings of a Kristaps Porzingis-Payton Pritchard two-man game that will hopefully result in many more of these alley-oops.
Mazzulla also stayed committed through the game to the style of basketball he’s famous for – ridiculous numbers of three pointers. In total, the Celtics shot 23-for-52 from deep tonight. If Boston shoots that well throughout the season, Mazzulla ball will look amazing.
All in all, it was a dominant offensive performance from Boston’s top-6. The Celtics showed that its new defensive additions can be effective, even if they didn’t put it all together. Hopefully they can keep up their superb shooting and effort when opening night jitters hit October 25th.