Please add the caveat “It’s only preseason, but . . . ” to everything that follows in this recap. The Boston Celtics kicked off another contending run with a preseason victory over the James Harden and Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers. Kristaps Porzingis instantly fit in, and he poured in an efficient 17 points on 71% shooting. Tyrese Maxey looks like he’s ready to make yet another leap this season, leading Philly tonight with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Payton Pritchard led all scorers with 26 points.
The Celtics came out of the gate immediately with Jayson Tatum (13 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists). whipping a pass over to Porzingis, who promptly drained a 3-pointer. Unfortunately, Porzingis was the only starter who looked truly comfortable out there for much of the game. Jrue Holiday (6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) was the first Celtic not named Porzingis or Jaylen Brown (team-high 19 points on 70% shooting) to score late in the first quarter.But, you know, it’s preseason.
The best thing about tonight? No one got injured in the game. It’s going to be a long season cringing every time Kristaps Porzingis falls to the floor.
The highlight of the night came at the end of the first quarter, with the Celtics down 13. With about three seconds left, Payton Pritchard sped down the court before launching and sinking a deep three-pointer plus the foul to put the Celtics down nine entering the second.
The lowlight of the night came when Jayson Tatum went for a poster on Jaden Springer midway through the third quarter only for third-year guard Jaden Springer to stuff his shot in a locker.
Joe Mazzulla seemingly had a lot of fun tonight trying different things. A variety of players entered the post at various times, including Jrue Holiday, Jayson Tatum and, of course, Porzingis. This is a dynamic that this team hasn’t had before, and it’ll be really fun to see this offense with a few more curveballs than in years past.
In the third quarter, the Celtics started to really get interesting out there on both ends, with a couple of defensive stops turning into transition points on the other end. The defense was pretty meh for most of the night, but as the Holiday-White-Brown-Tatum-Porzingis lineup took the spotlight, they got stop after stop with either contests at the rim or strips on the perimeter.
When they’re locked in, this team has the chops to be a top, if not the top, defensive team in the league. For most of the night, Porzingis’ length bothered the Sixers pretty significantly, which is a good sign moving forward.
After the top six subbed out late in the third, the game turned into the Payton Pritchard show, leading the Cs on a 12-2 run to take control late in the game. Oshae Brissett also stood out in his role, playing aggressively on both ends. Brissett pushed down an insane putback dunk that was criminally ruled an offensive foul. At least Lamar Stevens got one that counted.
The biggest takeaway of the night? The Kornet Kontest still works.
The Celtics will hit the hardwood again tomorrow night against the New York Knicks in the rare preseason home-road back-to-back, though I doubt many (if any) of the regulars will be suiting up.