If the players are using the preseason to get their reps in and prepare both physically and mentally for life in the regular season, the exact same thing is true for us fans. You think it's easy watching the Celtics play? I'm sorry, where have you been? I don't care if it's the Summer League, preseason, regular season, playoffs or NBA Finals. This team is going to put you through the wringer emotionally. I don't even care if you're some sort of tough guy and try and say "it's the preseason these games don't count, who cares?" This preseason has already allowed us to get our early reps in what will most likely be another emotional rollercoaster of a season. Every game coming down to the wire so far, huge late game offensive possessions, game winning defensive stops it's like we're in midseason form with about 9 days before the season even starts. What do we always say about this team. They'll never it make it easy on themselves, and last night was the latest example.
I'm of the belief that when the Celtics step on a basketball court, I prefer they play well and win. They most certainly have a ton of stuff to work on before the games start to count for real, but watching this team to start the year I'm seeing almost everything I hoped for over the course of the offseason. They still have some of their same old bad habits which was to be expected, but there's a whole lot more to like through two preseason games. Somehow, a team that was 17-26 in the clutch season is 2-0 with both coming in clutch time moments. The ball is zipping, they seem to be playing with a more consistent effort, the defense is showing progress.
Of course, take it all with a grain of salt. It is the preseason after all. But at the same time I don't really give a shit because I had to wait a million years between preseason games so I'm going to enjoy the hell out of another thrilling win. Let's dive in.
- I know Jayson Tatum has taken that leap because even on nights where it didn't feel like he played up to his normal level, he was still fucking awesome.
You may not love the 6-15 and I'm with you that Tatum has to find ways to become more efficient especially if Jaylen ends up missing time. But we're see saw what happens when Tatum doesn't allow that slow start to mess with him mentally. He still found ways to impact this game on both ends and most likely ends up with a triple double if he plays more than 28 minutes. You knew it was only a matter of time before his offense woke up which it did in that 10 point 3rd quarter (4-7 shooting), but without a doubt my favorite part of Tatum's night was his passing. More specifically, plays like this
Looking at this play is a great example of what you're seeing from Tatum as he matures as a passer. It was in the bubble that we got our first true look at his improved vision and ability to read defenses. Given how much attention he gets as a scorer, that is so important. So let's look at this play. Even from the start with all the movement and switching to begin things, that's exactly what you should want to see. Brad did a lot of that as well. Getting guys like Tatum a quasi-running start with a little motion screen is how a lot of his scoring opportunities come. The Raptors switch, and Tatum finds himself up against OG. That's where Horford comes in. Having someone like him set those high screens initially is helpful because it keeps him up there as a potential screener as the play unfolds. They utilize that screen to get Tatum a better matchup.
Here's where things get better and better. Instead of going iso against a worse defender, what do we see Tatum do? Take it into the post. That Bully Ball we heard Ime talk so much about. Go back to Horford and the importance of his skillset to stretch the floor. Look at where his man goes once Tatum goes into the post. He's nowhere close. Why that's important is it forces Fred VanVleet to come up and check Horford. Once he cuts, we see Tatum make a split decision
Because FVV is with Horford and Precious is cheating over, Romeo finds himself wide open in the corner. Tatum doesn't hesitate and makes the on the money cross court pass. The sneaky great part about the end of this play is Rob's recognition to set a little screen on his man so nobody can challenge the shot. That's just a small thing that often times goes unnoticed but clearly made all the difference to Romeo.
We know Tatum can score. We know he can defend at a high level. But one thing we've wanted to see is that leap as a playmaker and a passer. Everything about that play tells me it could be on the horizon.
- Ime talked about how Brad's offense was dogshit right to his face and he talked about how the ball was going to move better this year. I think we were all mostly in the I'll believe it when I see it camp. Well, how does 29 AST on 38 FGM sound to you?
We talked about Tatum, but the passing last night was contagious. Smart had 7 assists, Pritchard had 5 and it felt like there were fewer and fewer possessions where the ball just stuck with one guy. I think it's important to realize that over the course of an NBA game there is going to be some isolation. That's OK. You just don't want to overly on it to the point where you become predictable and easy to defend. It feels like we're getting the perfect mix so far to start the preseason. I am praying this translates into the regular season. If nothing else does, fine. Just give me this ball movement when the games count for real.
- OK, I've tried to resist, but it's time to talk about Romeo
……but I'm getting close. Listen, I've been pretty firm on my stance with Romeo that we simply do not know what he is, one way or the other. Could end up being a legit rotation piece, could end up being another James Young. He just hasn't been consistently available and given real run for us to know. What I do know is the player I watched this summer and then last night looks like a much more confident player. Romeo is playing with purpose and it's made all the difference for him. He feels more confident in his shot and he's not even hitting the rim. Things look like they are slowing down for him
Both Romeo and Nesmith are the huge wild cards of that second unit. If they can both take leaps this season, it changes things a little bit in terms of this team's ceiling. I can't sit here and tell you that watching Romeo nail all these threes isn't weird to see. I found myself expecting him to make it whenever I saw him go into his shot last night and that's a feeling I'm not sure I've ever had with Romeo. This preseason was pretty important for Romeo to show that he not only belongs but deserves minutes, and if he's going to shoot like this I cannot imagine Ime doesn't find a role for him. Another two way super athletic wing? Who wouldn't take that.
- Watching Al Horford back in Celts home whites just feels right. It's even better that he looks great and things are as if he never left in the first place
Al looks fresh, his jumper looks as good as ever and we already know what he can do as a passer. But what I noticed last night that was a pleasant surprise was the fact that Al wasn't getting killed by quicker players defensively. He hung with both smaller and quicker guards and wings. Now I don't think that will always be the case as the season goes on, but it's a great starting point.
It's such a nice safety blanket to have Al on the floor. Even if he doesn't give the Celts the 2016 version, his game has developed in a way that will still help this offense. It gives them more space, you can use him in the post or as a screener, and I don't think anyone can deny the fact that this roster did not have a player like this in their frontcourt last year.
- Speaking of that, I am all in on the double big lineup. Things are unfolding just like those of us who support that idea have tried to explain. This is not a Theis/Thompson situation. Horford and Rob fit next to each other, both have been solid defending the perimeter in their limited opportunities, and what it does for them defensively is undeniable. Rob challenges shots like he's fucking Gobert. If Al is going to shoot like this, the spacing isn't an issue. It would not shock me one bit if Ime goes with this to start the yea.
- I'm willing to reconsider Grant's role now that he has morphed into Slim Grant. This is a completely different player
I'm not seeing as many bonehead mental mistakes either. Grant looks quicker, his three continues to be very consistent, and he's been playing like a rotation caliber player so fear this preseason. It's early, let's give this time., but for a guy that a lot of this fanbase was done with it sure does look like Grant could be closer to his rookie version than his disaster sophomore version.
- Hard to argue with 46/47% and 19 3PM as a team. This was without Jaylen and Schroder too by the way.
- You didn't think you were going to get out of this section without the Pritchard highlights did you? Don't be ridiculous. Honestly having a shooter like Pritchard come off your bench feels like cheating. This dude's range is easily among the best in the league and I won't hear otherwise.
We're seeing Pritchard hit more and more big time fourth quarter threes too. He showed us in this game that you can use him both s an on and off ball player. If you want to play him next to Smart, that works. Especially if defenses are going to continue to double Tatum. Just put Pritchard on that same side and enjoy the made 35 footer.
As an on ball player with the second unit, Pritchard looks under control and makes a conscious effort to protect the ball and find his teammates. I'm not sure how consistent his minutes will be when Schroder plays, but I would say the version of Pritchard we saw in Vegas is the one we're currently seeing in Boston.
- Shoutout Marcus Smart for showing us that he can absolutely accept this new role. A solid 9/2/7 with just 2 TOs and 7 FGA. Of those 7 FGA, only 2 were 3PA. This is what all the Smart haters have been screaming for, and you're getting it.
- Through two games I wouldn't exactly say I'm in love with how this team is defending the three point line. Another 16 3PM for an opponent, that has to be cleaned up over the next few weeks. It might feel like guys are hitting some prayers, but you have to expect that going in. Giving up prayer threes is what the Celts do. I just know that when this team was an elite defense, they led the league in opponent 3PM and opponent 3P%. That has not been the case through two games.
- The Enes Kanter experience has not been great so far. Well let me rephrase that. Outside of his rebounding, the experience hasn't been great. Still BBQ chicken in the P&R, it feels like his turnover rate on the offensive end in the post is sky high, and if Ime goes double big I do wonder if that means more Kanter minutes.
- I find it both comical and extremely pathetic that this Celtics team cannot inbound a basketball. They can't do it. Something that is easy for 99% of the league remains one of the hardest things for this team to master. I've never seen a team turn it over this much when all you have to do is pass it to your teammate. It nearly cost them the game!
I mean christ. Let's clean that up please.
- Obviously the 23 turnovers was repulsive. Even worse was the fact that it led to 37 Raptors points. You shouldn't win a game doing shit like that. It was everyone too. Tatum had 6 by himself, the second unit was just as careless as the starters, it was both frustrating and hilarious at the same time.
- Speaking of Tatum, I guess the whole "not bitching to the refs" thing didn't really last. Even if he was getting fouled, that's Ime's point. Despite that, he doesn't want people bitching. We did not get that last night that's for sure.
- Whatever that deep bench closing lineup was, I hope we never see it again. In true Celtics fashion they blew an 8 point lead with 90 seconds to go forcing us to sweat out a last second shot. Of course they did. Thank god for Juancho saving the day because that was giving me 2020 flashbacks. I don't ask for much from end of bench guys, but I need to be able to trust you not to blow an 8 point lead in 90 seconds. Let's start there.
All in all, things feel great as we enter Wednesday's Game 3. These games are about working out the kinks and seeing flashes from guys to get you excited for the real thing. You win some entertaining nail biters along the way, even better.