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The Celtics Took The Court For The First Time Since The NBA Finals And They Looked INCREDIBLE

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.

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Given all the drama that has been surrounding the Boston Celtics these last few weeks, boy was I ready to see this team actually play. And while everyone knows these preseason games technically do not count in terms of the team's actual record, anyone who tells you these preseason games are not important for the Celts could not be more incorrect. They are all important. Not just the games, but every single possession they have. Being able to get back to actual basketball it comes to this team was a welcomed sight, and when you add in the fact that they kicked the absolute shit out of the Hornets to the tune of 41 goddamn points, yeah….I'm going to be pretty happy today.

I don't think anyone really knew what to expect yesterday. The hope was that this team filled with enough veterans would be able to block out the drama and play a style of basketball that we all watched run through the rest of the league last year. But mixing in some new pieces, introducing a new head coach, there was still a good level of uncertainty and anticipation to see how everything would mesh together. And while this was just the first preseason game against a team that could sneaky find themselves in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, that doesn't take away from the very real reality that the Celts looked fucking incredible in their debut.

Honestly my biggest takeaway was that our first look of the 2022-23 Celts under Joe Mazzulla looked damn close to the post-January Celts that finished the season 27-7. Not just with what they did well, but also their struggles. I found that to be a pretty big deal, even if it was just the first fake game of the year. It was just nice to get back to this team brining us joy, something we'd all gone a few months without. 

We have a lot to get to so no need to waste time. Let's dive in.

The Good

- When I think about who is the leader of this team, my brain takes about 0.1 seconds to get an answer. For me, it starts with Jaylen Brown. He gets it. Everything he said during Media Day was exactly what you want to hear from your franchise player.

Then, when it comes time to showing up on the floor what does Jaylen do? He's the best player in the arena from the opening tip and never takes his foot off the gas

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That man sure looks ready to you right? This goes back to what I blogged early Sunday morning. This season it's about Brown and Tatum not just talking the talk, but establishing themselves on the court as guys who are not only going to be locked in and play the right way, but also produce.

In Jaylen's 23 minutes he finished with 24/5 on 8-11 (3-5) and 5-7 from the line, and I dunno about you but I'll take a point a minute. Jaylen was effective from all three levels yesterday, which is exactly the offensive approach I want to continue to see from him. Good in the paint/at the rim, good from midrange, good from deep. A complete offensive performance

This shouldn't have really come as a surprise since Jaylen has been the best first quarter player on this team for the past 3-4 years and yesterday was no different. He finished with 13 of their 29 points after the first 12 minutes on 4-7 shooting, and something tells me that's going to continue to be a fixture under Mazzulla. If there's one thing we know, it's that Jaylen is usually ready to go right away and this team should be playing through him to start games. Not only is he productive, he's efficient.

- I'm going to give you some numbers right now that might seem fake, but they are in fact real. Again, I know this was a fake game against a team that stinks, but by now you should know that I am the last person to give a single shit about that.

  • The Celts finished with 41 assists
  • They made 22 3PM
  • They won the rebounding battle 56-43
  • They shot 57/46%
  • They scored 134 points

I don't care when the game happens or who it's against, if you finish with 41 assists on 48 FGM, that's a big deal. The ball movement yesterday looked exactly like it did when this team repeatedly killed teams by 20+ points on a nightly basis last year. It wasn't sticking, nobody was falling into bad isolation habits, guys were moving, and the results speak for themselves. Of all the players that saw the floor yesterday, 7 different guys had at least 4 assists. SEVEN! 

Any concern I may have had about this offense falling into bad habits now that Ime wasn't there to call them assholes went away pretty quickly when I realized that Joe Mazzulla has this team passing the ball better than they ever have in my life. Can't say I saw that coming if we're being honest. 

- You know who played a big role in that? Malcolm Brogdon. For a guy that just got here, he sure does look like someone who already fits like a glove

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This is the beauty of what Brad did. He went out and not only brought in a really good player for basically nothing, but he brought in someone with the exact skillset the roster needed who has the perfect mentality to thrive in his role

Brogdon led the team with 9 assists (3 TOs) in his 24 minutes off the bench and it was clear to pretty much everyone that watched how impactful he's going to be this year. His unselfishness, his playmaking ability and then the way he can use his size to score off the dribble is the perfect addition to this current group. 

The one thing I'd like to see is more minutes with Tatum on the floor so Brogdon can be used as more of a catch and shoot guy as opposed to a take threes off the dribble guy, but that's nitpicking. In terms of a debut, it's hard to ask for anything more. It felt like Brogdon has been playing with this group for years, and the fact that this team is bringing him, White, and Pritchard off the bench is pretty insane.

- Raise your hand if you're shocked that Al Horford looked great and not a day over 28 years old

Yup, not a single hand raised. Nothing crazy, just a little 8/5/4 in his 18 minutes with 3-3 (2-2) shooting splits and a block for Al the ageless wonder to go along with solid defense. Don't ask me to explain how Horford still looks this good at like 36 years old, just enjoy the ride.

- The bench, holy shit. We've had seasons where once things went to the second unit, it got ugly real quick. Yesterday? The bench scored 72 points and had 28 assists with only 8 TOs. You saw Brogdon's work, but I assure you he was not alone

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Let's start with Hauser. How do you like 14 points on 5-6 (4-5) shooting in 18 minutes off the bench? When I say this man is automatic, it's not a joke. I truly don't think he knows how to miss. His ability to get shots off quickly and effectively is an important NBA skill, and he has that greenlight mindset where you can tell he's not even thinking about it, he's just letting it fly. That's the mentality all great shooters have.

But would it be crazy if I said that in a game he went 4-5 from three that the best part of his game was on the defensive end? The key for Hauser to see consistent minutes won't just be his shooting, but also his ability to defend at a passable level. I thought he more than held his own regardless of who he was matched up with, and that's a great sign moving forward. No, he's not going to make an All NBA Defensive team, but can he he playable on that end? Early results suggest that yes, yes he can.

Then there's Kab. What a monster. If you want a vertical threat while Rob is on the sidelines, look no further than Mfiondu Kabengele. The energy he played with was contagious, the P&R lobs that we saw in Vegas with JD Davison immediately translated. He hit the boards, he had a sick block that was called a bullshit foul. It would not surprise me at all if he played his way into getting his Two Way contract converted. He's exactly what this team needs in a reserve big. What a showing for him.

- If you're into this kind of thing, I should also mention that Payton Pritchard/JD Davison combined for 9 assists and 0 TOs. The guard depth on this team is freaky man. It just never ends.

- I don't want to get too ahead of myself, but we might be on the brink of another Grant Leap Year. Last season it was the three point shooting and defensive versatility that changed his trajectory. This year? I think we may see a version of Grant that is MUCH more comfortable making plays off the dribble. He started to show flashes of that last year when it came to attacking closeouts, but I thought he looked much quicker/more decisive with those same times of plays during yesterday's game. He also made his 3PA (2-3), but that on ball element to his game would be a great place to see him take a step forward. 

- It never really donned on me what insane Noah Vonleh's wingspan is, and I thought he was fairly solid with 7/9 in his 12 minutes. There were times where I was annoyed that he simply wouldn't rebound, but I imagine I'm not the first person who has had that concern over the course of his career. But he does have good size, that 3PM at the shot clock buzzer was a bit of a surprise, and I'm interested to see how he looks the rest of this preseason. There could very well be a spot for him if he plays well.

- If you had any concerns about this team's defense, all you had to do was watch their opening possession

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The Hornets had an elite offense last year and you'd never know it by watching this game. The switching looked great, the communication was clear and consistent, guys stayed true to their roles and there is simply not a person you can attack defensively no matter what lineup Mazzulla ends up playing. 

The Bad

- What could possibly be bad in a game you win by 41 points? Well let's pump the breaks here for a second. This is still the Boston Celtics. Even in their 40 point blowouts they are going to do something that drives you insane. That's in their DNA, there's nothing we can do about that.

Take the defensive rebounding for example. I know the rebounding split says 56-43, but I thought it was pretty dogshit for the majority of the first half. The Hornets finished with 16 OREB and 21 2nd chance points which is far too many.  Early in this game we would see the Celts play about 22 seconds of lock down defense, only to not finish the possession. With no Rob and Luke Kornet sidelined, I do have some concerns about this team's ability to hold their own on the defensive glass. Especially in lineups when Tatum and Brown are not on the floor to help crash the boards. 

Luckily, their struggles felt more like things you can correct on film, but I think we can all agree the rebounding early in this game was not good enough.

- I know he finished with 16 points, but this wasn't the best game I've ever seen Tatum play. He struggled a little bit shooting the ball at 4-11 (2-8), his handle wasn't all that tight and it's never great when we see him finish with more TOs (5) than FGM (4). There were things I thought he did well, I thought he was solid defensively and he did move the ball and not fall into bad iso habits, but I think we can all agree he's going to have to be better moving forward. 

- Getting the lead to 46 but not extending it to 50 was a bummer. 41 points sure looks nice, but there's something about 50 that just does it for me.

The Ugly

- You know what's going here. Normally I would chalk this up to preseason jitters, but given this team's history I'm not sure I can do that. The Celtics turned the basketball over 23 times in this game. 23. In their first showing since the NBA Finals where you could make the case they lost a title in part because they couldn't stop turning it over……they couldn't stop turning it over. Jaylen had 4, Tatum had 5, Smart had 4, Brogdon 3, this was beyond unacceptable. When your three highest usage players finish with a combined 13 assists, that's terrible.

The concern here is you do this against a team with a pulse, you aren't winning by 41. Chances are you're going to get your ass kicked. They were bailed out by the three point shooting sure, but you can't bank on that. This team HAS to be more careful with the basketball. Now some of these turnovers had good intentions in a sense they came as a result of guys wanting to move the ball which is good, but the execution was poor. Those 23 turnovers led to 21 CHA points and I can only imagine what it looks like against a team not shooting 34/15%.

All in all though, it's hard to be too upset with what we saw yesterday. We'll see a much more formidable opponent on Wednesday with TOR, so let's all try and pump the breaks until we see what it looks like against a team that should actually be competitive this season. Actually, who am I kidding. The Celts won by 41 and it was fucking glorious. I'm chugging Celts Kool Aid until tipoff Wednesday and there's nothing anyone can do about it.