The Celtics ran the big dogs to begin the game, then allowed the bench to protect and build on the lead for a great team win in Philadelphia tonight. In total there were 13 Celtics players that played at least 10 minutes, as the team continues to slowly but surely build their identity into a high-flying, fast-running, 3-draining juggernaut (hopefully). Tonight was a step in the right direction as they defeated the Sixers 110-102 in a game where they brought an energy typically reserved for the regular season.
The game started off smooth for the Celtics, demonstrated first by rookie Jayson Tatum who was making his first ever start in a Celtics uniform. The young man began delivering early with a veteran pump fake to lose his man and drain the baseline mid-range jumper to take the early lead for the Celtics. In fact, Tatum was 3-3 with 7 points in the first quarter, including another Pierce-esque move as he lowered his shoulder into his defender then faded away to make yet another mid-range jumper. He followed this by draining an open 3 to finish his first true offensive outburst of his young career. This 3, however, was his only make from deep all night as he finished 1-3 from long range. If Tatum can manage to make an outside shot with any kind of consistency during the regular season, the Celtics will be very happy with their young rookie.
Another early takeaway from the game: Kyrie Irving was determined to find his shot and find his shot he did. I’m talking shoot-damn-near-every-touch type shooting. This became glaringly obvious and a bit too much when he shot a 3 with nearly 20 seconds still left on the shot clock; but aside from that, Mr. Irving ATE. He shot 50% including an eye-popping 5/7 from 3 to finish with 21 points in just 25 minutes.
Our other shiny new toy, Mr. Hayward, only scored 9 tonight but he seemed noticeably more comfortable with his new team as he consistently utilized Aron Baynes’ screens to help get his shot off. Although he shot just 1-4 from deep, he proved to be the facilitator we knew he could be as he finished the game with a team high 5 assists to go with 2 steals and a couple of rebounds in his limited minutes.
Brad ran with a bench of just 9 men during the first half – Irving, Hayward, Horford, Tatum, Brown, Ojeleye, Smart, Rozier, Baynes being his crew. As far as THE SCORE (who cares about the score during preseason anyway, right?) – the Celtics were leading at half 58-54.
Per preseason norm, the HC rolled out the rest of his bench during the 2nd half and these men Did. Their. Jobs. Yabusele popped by bringing the hustle and throwing his body around, resulting in 3 quick rebounds to go along with a couple of steals. He may have finished with just 4 points on 1-3 shooting, but it seemed he made his presence known on almost every play he was out there. His exclamation point came as he hustled back to foul Okafor as he attempted a seemingly easy dunk in transition towards the end of the game. No easy buckets. In the end, the Celtics bench played well enough to build on the starters lead and eventually sealed the deal on a 110-102 win.
THE HOT (AND NOT)
Hot: Has GOT to be Kyrie. Again, the man went into a zone from deep tonight and it was a sight to see as a Celtics fan who still can’t believe we have Kyrie Irving. He would have went for nearly 40 if he played a normal amount of minutes tonight. Aron Baynes gets special mention for another outstanding game setting screens, rebounding the basketball, and finishing around the basket. He ended up with 5 boards and 12 points in just 16 minutes.
Not: Kris Humphries. The Kardashian Curse personified. That is, at least until Tristan Thompson (hopefully) takes home that title. He played a mere 5 minutes and is likely struggling for a roster spot on a crowded, talented, and tall Sixers squad. What a fall from grace, huh? Who could have seen that coming….
Jaylen Brown will enter the Dunk Contest before he retires. Bank on it. As far as his production tonight, he finished with 10 points on 50% shooting in just over 20 minutes – including this beautiful steal and finish in transition. This man is going to be doing this a LOT this year.
Mind you, this is just one play during a game in which he and the rest of the Celtics seemed to have that extra bit of energy that the Sixers just couldn’t match tonight. The Celtics earned this – a well deserved team win. There are now just 2 more preseason games until the regular season finally begins.