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Celtics secure the comeback: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Lakers

The Celtics finally get a W on their Summer League record

2023 NBA Summer League - Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics Photo by Louis Grasse/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics came into their third Summer League game without a win to their name, yet they found a way to grind out a hard-fought win against the Los Angeles Lakers, who came into the night on a two-game winning streak. Celtics fans got their first look at Dalano Banton, while Jordan Walsh showed no signs of the knee injury he sustained in the game's opening minutes against the Washington Wizards.

Max Christie and the Lakers are the stronger perimeter shooting team and looked to control the game with their three-point scoring ability. Boston, though, wasn’t in the mood for a third straight loss and fought their way back from a deficit to beat their most fierce rivals.

Here are 10 takeaways from an exciting Summer League game.

#1 Shooting Varience continues to hurt the Celtics

Let’s be honest. This year’s Summer League roster isn’t teeming with perimeter shooters. Instead, there’s a roster full of players who boast good size and length and can pressure the rim at will. Some members of the roster can knock down threes at an average clip. Only Jay Scrubb is a natural out-and-out scorer.

It wasn’t a surprise, then, that the Celtics went 4-of-14 from deep in the first half before slightly pulling things back to end the game 9-of-16 (34.6%). Last season, the Celtics had their fair share of run-ins with the trials and tribulations that being a perimeter-heavy team can bring, yet the Summer League roster adjusted quickly and began to make good use of their size around the rim and in the mid-range.

In the above clip, you can see Jordan Walsh utilizing a delayed cut to create a driving lane and get right at the rim. It’s possessions like these, where Boston turned their attention to ‘hitting singles’ that kept them within striking distance as the Lakers enjoyed a hot start.

#2 A different pace of play

In their opening two games of Summer League, Boston has looked to push the pace and set the tone. Against the Lakers, the Celtics deployed a more methodical approach on offense, utilizing additional pick-and-roll actions while looking to develop scoring opportunities in the half-court. As such, we saw more off-ball movement and got to see JD Davison and Banton’s decision-making abilities, as they continually probed the defense before making their reads.

#3 Brad Stevens appears to be satisfied with Malcolm Brogdon & Payton Pritchard

Brad Stevens joined the announcer's table during the first quarter, where he gave a lot of ‘GM Speak’ about the moves this summer. Yet, the one thing that stood out was how he spoke about the team’s guard rotation moving forward.

“I think the biggest thing, we had really, really good depth at the guard spots,” Stevens said. “All the way down the line, we had good guards that weren’t getting many minutes...Our guards should have some room to work (following the addition of Kristaps Porzingis.)”

Derrick White projects to be the starting point guard for the Celtics next season, with Malcolm Brogdon continuing in his sixth-man role and Payton Pritchard rounding out the rotation. And, of course, Jaylen Brown will continue to start at the two-guard spot. Banton and JD Davison will then be left to duke it out for whatever minutes are remaining.

#4 Our first look at Dalano Banton

We’ve waited two whole games to get our first look at Banton following the Celtics' acquisition of the 6’9’’ guard in free agency. First impressions are always tough, especially in the chaos that is Summer League basketball. Yet, the first impression wasn’t bad at all.

Banton looked controlled when initiating actions as the pick-and-roll ball-handler and appeared willing to fight to get to his scoring spots.

In the above play, you can see Banton drag his dribble over a stagger screen before turning the corner to get downhill. Banton has a man chasing him in the rearview but doesn't allow himself to get sped up. Instead, the 23-year-old remains poised and goes into his shooting motion at his own pace. Unfortunately, there were also moments when Banton looked a little too passive after getting into a scoring position - as seen below.

On the defensive end, Banton used his size well, although he did find himself getting back-cut on more than one occasion. Banton will need to improve his body positioning and awareness if he wants to avoid getting torn to shreds on back cuts during the regular season. Again, this was one game, and first impressions can be deceiving, so it’s likely that Banton has more to offer than what we saw against the Lakers.

#5 Summer League defense in full effect

Outside of Walsh, who played a fierce defensive game, the Celtics were struggling to limit the Lakers' offensive chances and force bad shots. Miscommunications saw switches occurring late, they saw players being run into screens, while poor positioning resulted in pocket passes, snatch-back jumpers, and clear lanes to the hoop.

Defense is a team responsibility. Communication is a team responsibility. At times, it appeared like no one was looking out for the man next to them. Fortunately, as the game wore on, Boston upped their defensive intensity and began to get stops.

At the NBA level, especially with a contending team like the Celtics, defense is how you’re going to earn rotation minutes. Making a big impression as a valuable defensive commodity should be a top priority for everyone on the Summer League roster — regardless of what else you bring to the table.

#6 JD Davison has another impressive night

It feels like JD Davison can do everything well except score the rock. The second-year guard is adept at securing rebounds. Davison can control the pace of the game. Assists come easy to the explosive guard due to his ability to penetrate the defense, and force collapses with his rim pressure and explosiveness. Yet, for some reason, converting his attempts into points is still an issue for Davison.

Nevertheless, Davison played well against the Lakers and finished the contest without registering a single turnover. In a slower-paced game than what we’ve seen thus far, Davison adapted his playing style and used his changes of pace to penetrate the perimeter.

Davison still has work to do on the defensive side of the floor and needs to continue working on his ability to finish through contact and hit perimeter jumpers. However, another year in the G-League will work wonders for a guard who has already taken leaps in the past 12 months.

#7 Where was Justin Bean?

Justin Bean has been a steady contributor in Summer League. Bean hasn’t been flashy or stood out, yet he has been steady and reliable. However, with Banton entering the rotation, it was Bean who saw his playing time take a hit, with the result being a quiet and ineffective night.

#8 The Celtics are tied to third-quarter performances, it would seem

In recent years, the third quarter has been a make-or-break moment for the Celtics. During the NBA Bubble, I was keeping count of how many times Boston blew a game with a poor showing out of half-time. While under Udoka, the Celtics made the third quarter a weapon. And Mazzulla experienced a mixed bag of results.

Against the Lakers, the Celtics once again waited until the third quarter to come alive. Chasing down a Los Angeles lead before pulling ahead in the dying moments. It seems like the Celtics and third-quarter performances are confined to just NBA games.

The Celtics outscored the Lakers 30-17 in the third, with Walsh leading the way with 12 points, 2 rebounds, and 50% shooting from the perimeter.

#9 Udoka Azubuike and Olek Balcerowksi switch roles

Against the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards, Olek Balcerowksi was the more impressive of Boston’s big-man duo. Yet, Udoka Azubuike has grown in production over the last two games and had his best performance in a Celtics Summer League jersey against the Lakers.

Still not the best of screeners, Azubuike made up for shortcomings by being more active as an off-ball big, utilizing solid movement, along with being a big body in the paint.

Where Balcerowksi found himself going along for the ride, Azubuike made his presence felt. However, we’ve got to give props to Balcerowksi for having the best rebounding night of his Summer League so far, as that’s been a weakness I’ve been eager to see him resolve.

#10 Featuring Jordan Walsh

You’ve got to ask yourself if Brad Stevens and Joe Mazzulla have given Tony Dobbins a remit to feature Walsh on the offensive end heavily. After entering the NBA with a reputation for being a fearsome defender with offensive limitations, Walsh has been tasked with handling the rock, shooting threes, and pressuring the rim over his first three Summer League games.

It didn’t start off well for Walsh, but he grew in stature throughout the contest and ended the game on 10-of-20 shooting from the field. Featuring Walsh feels like a predicated move to help expedite his offensive development and potentially signals that he will have some form of role in the rotation next season. It’s going to be a while until Walsh looks comfortable from the perimeter on a consistent basis, but it’s easy to forget that Grant Williams was a 25% shooter from deep as a rookie.

Walsh clearly has fans within the Celtics franchise, and Summer League is the perfect time to start giving him all the reps he needs to start blossoming into the three-and-d wing the Celtics likely envision him becoming.

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