The Boston Celtics opened up their shortened preseason slate with a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers last night. With the shortened offseason and no summer league, it will obviously take some time to get back into full gear. But with the first regular season game in six days and only one preseason game left, the Celtics have some issues to iron out, and not a lot of time to do so.
The starting lineup looked a little bit different than most Celtics fans expected. Rob Williams got the start at center with Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson both out due to injury. And Javonte Green took over as the other guard alongside Marcus Smart, rather than Jeff Teague. With the recent influx of young guards, Green oftentimes gets overlooked. But he possesses a skill set unlike the other guards, as he creates highlight reel dunks rather than relying on his jumper. Green won’t function as the primary ballhandler of the offense, which meant that Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown were typically bringing the ball up when the starting lineup was on the floor.
With Gordon Hayward now out of the picture, it is important for both Tatum and Brown to function more as playmakers in the offense. With Teague not starting, it thrust both of them into that role right away. While they each had two assists apiece, they combined for seven total turnovers. If Brad Stevens continues to bring Teague off the bench, these numbers will need to be better moving forward.
Once the game got rolling, it was clear the Celtics were not at their best. After hitting his first shot, Brown proceeded to miss the next ten he took, finishing the night an abysmal 1-11. Tatum also struggled through an inefficient night, with a final line of 4-13 from the field. With Kemba Walker out, it’s imperative for these two to not only lead the offense, but to make their shots. It’s important to not put too much weight on a preseason game, especially given the circumstances the players currently face, but the performances put forth from Brown and Tatum are certainly not great to see heading into the season.
Despite the poor performances from Brown and Tatum, the bench provided some room for optimism to be had as well. Despite not starting Jeff Teague came off the bench and shot lights out, finishing 7-9 from the field, including 4-4 on three pointers. This is a fantastic sign to see from Teague, and should give Stevens the confidence to start him while Kemba Walker misses time with injury.
The other standout performance was courtesy of Payton Pritchard. Pritchard immediately looked like he belonged in the NBA, and put up an extremely impressive stat line (16 PTS on 6-10 shooting, 4 REB, 2 AST, and 1 block). Coming into the season, it seemed as though Pritchard would be in a competition with Tremont Waters and Carson Edwards for a spot in the rotation, but Pritchard vastly outperformed both of them. Again, you can’t put too much weight on preseason games, but on a night where the stars struggled for the Celtics, it was encouraging to see some strong performances off the bench.
The Celtics will face off against the Brooklyn Nets Friday night before heading into the regular season. The Celtics will look for bounce back performances from Tatum and Brown, and hopefully will see the return of either Theis or Thompson to add another big man to the rotation. The big performances from the bench help offset the duds from the starting lineup. The Celtics will look to put it all together in their final tune up match against the Nets before the season starts.