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Celtics drop first game of Summer League in 99-88 loss to Heat

Jordan Walsh and JD Davison had strong performances in their first action on The Strip.

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Miami Heat v Boston Celtics Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

It wasn’t exactly Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo, but in a Summer League rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics gave up (another) fourth quarter run to the Heat and lost 99-88 in Boston’s first action of the 2023 Vegas Summer League.

Game 9 to be determined at a later date.

All eyes were on Boston’s last two consecutive second round picks, J.D. Davison and this year’s 38th pick, Jordan Walsh.

J.D. Davison led the Summer League in assists last July and averaged 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 7.7 assists in 26 games in Maine. Sporting a bigger frame this year, Davison looked to again command the Celtics in Sin City and hopefully, secure a roster spot with the big club for next fall after spending last season on a two-way contract.

Davison racked up five turnovers, but finished with 14 points and 11 assists with a strong run down the stretch. Miami’s aggressive defense often doubled and trapped him above the break, trying to prevent him from using his speed as a weapon. He hit just five of his 14 shots, but stayed effective penetrating the middle of the floor and getting out in transition.

Walsh hit his first four threes of the game and finished with a team-high 18 points. After signing a four-year, $7.6 million contract this week, he’s set to be a possible 3&D option off the bench for head coach Joe Mazzulla at only 19-years-old.

“When he came for his second draft workout, we did 100 spot 3’s, he was in the 50’s in May and 74 in late June,” Brad Stevens said. “So that shows you there’s work being put in. It shows you he’s got the touch to be a good shooter.”

His defense was as advertised — a long, athletic perimeter disruptor with an active motor. He had five fouls to go along with two steals and a block.

“For me at this point, it’s about playing my role to the best ability I can. I know that my goal is play with the guys on the sideline like Jayson Tatum. I gotta make open shots and do the dirty work and that’s what I’m preparing for,” Walsh told NBATV’s Chris Haynes.

Justin Champagnie, who is playing on a non-guaranteed contract after being added to the roster in April, struggled in his thirty minutes, making just 3-of-13 from the field and finished a -19 as a SL starter.

Jay Scrubb, who averaged 22.3 points per game for Orlando’s G-League team, had 17 points. Justin Bean chipped in 13 and Olek Balcerowski had 8 and 5 in the loss.

Of course, take everything with a grain of salt. This is one game — the first game — on a Saturday afternoon of Summer League. First round draft picks are trying to show out. Others are fighting for end-of-the-bench spots and two-way contracts. Competition and team play can be skewed to those individual motivations.

However, we did get our first look at what could be part of the near and long-term future of the Celtics. With departures of Marcus Smart, Grant Williams, and to a lesser extent, Danilo Gallinari, Boston is looking for players to fill out their regular season rotation with clear needs at the wing and guard positions.

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