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The Celtics Won Their Preseason Opener So Naturally It's Time To Overreact

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics

Last night was our chance to finally see the new look Celtics in action. Summer League gave us a little tease, and it served it’s purpose, but last night was different. This was the real (fake) deal, and I can’t sit here today and tell you it wasn’t fucking intoxicating. We learned some things right off the bat from this team and the main guys only played a half, but I can’t ignore the fact that even though it’s a team with all new players, it felt like the same old Celtics. All of the excitement that I had, and I’m sure you had too, was in a way validated because watching this team play one thing was clear.

They are going to be a lot of fun. Again.

We have a lot to discuss, so let’s dive right in

The Good

– I can’t lie, this was an extremely hard decision. If you’re new to this blog and you don’t get why, we always start this section with the standout performer. On a night like last night though, how does one choose? There were like five separate guys who could own this top spot. But alas, there can only be one winner, which is why we begin today’s blog with the uninterrupted performance of…..Daniel Theis!

A curveball I know, but to me he had the best night. Welcome to the NBA Daniel Theis you beautiful German bastard. His 12/7/3 in 13 minutes may not seem impressive, but to that I say stop being a hater. So often with these Euro guys, once you finally see them in person they do not like up to their YouTube hype. This couldn’t be further from the truth for Theis, as the performance I saw from him in this game was EXACTLY what YouTube told me he would do, and that is quite the relief. I mean he did everything, he rebounded, he thrived in P&R, he defended, he finished at the rim, and he stepped back behind the arc. Danny Ainge you did it again you genius.

So where do we go from here? Well, I think it’s clear after one performance that Theis needs to be a mainstay on the second unit at a MINIMUM. Maybe a spot start here or there depending on matchups, either way this guy deserves legit minutes. I don’t even care that he twice missed easy alley-oop dunks, he was fantastic

– Admittedly, I was terrified about how this team would rebound. They already stunk at it and got rid of a lot of their height. CHA was going to be an interesting matchup in this regard because they were around 16th in total rebounding last year and then added Dwight this past summer. The result? A 52-45 rebounding battle win. WHAT?!?! If this team is going to be pulling down 50+ rebounds consistently, they may never lose. Six players had at least 5 rebounds, and three more had 4. That is the type of collective rebounding that this team is going to have to show, and it came on both ends of the floor. Grabbing 13 OREB is pretty close to the magic number, and finally we saw a Celtics team limit their opponent on the glass, as CHA only had 7 OREB. The Celtics had a great rebounding game, imagine that.

– Call me crazy, but I kind of like Baynes starting at the five. I like what it does for Horford, allowing him to shift to the 4, and Baynes is just the type of player this team was missing last year. He’s a goddamn monster. Tommy loves his dick so that’s encouraging as well. But seriously, he’s the big goon this team needed, but he’s also got legit touch. He finished with 10/5/3/1/1 in 18 minutes which I’ll take everyday of the week

If Baynes’ little midrange jumper is going to be a consistent weapon, watch out. With great penetrators like Kyrie, Jaylen, Marcus etc, that shot is going to be there all the time. This is a shot that Amir Johnson was not making.

– I can be fair. I can be honest. I can admit that this play right here, is a play that Isaiah could not make. Well, the dunk part

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This was our first chance to see Kyrie, and I thought his performance was mixed. We saw the offensive potential, but he was also on the floor for that brutal like 15-0 Hornets run, so the defense was decent at best. Here’s what I will say though. It felt like Kyrie was a much more willing passer in this offense, which was a nice relief. You can’t flourish as the PG in this system unless you are down to move the ball.

– Speaking of ball movement, oh boy was it beautiful. The Celt started with 7 assists on their first 8 baskets, and finished with 26 assists on 38 baskets. That’s a 68% assist%. I enjoy that very, very much.

– I feel like I can’t go much further without addressing the other highly anticipated debut of Jayson Tatum. As expected, he was nervous as shit to start and you could tell right away. He was chucking the ball. He was afraid to make a mistake. That lasted maybe a quarter, and then we got a taste of what to expect. He finished with 9/5/5/2/2 in a game high 32 minutes, and really flourished in that fourth quarter.

I’ve held this stance since he was drafted, that his role and his minutes will all come down to how he defends, and frankly he was better than I expected against real NBA players. His length is clearly going to help protect the rim even though he’s a SF, and as we saw it also will come into play with his on ball defense as well. As long as Tatum continues to move his feet and establish good position, he can be a decent defender. Last night’s line is where I think Tatum lives for the majority of the year, and I would say he passed his first test last night.

– Jaylen started at the two. I am all for this move, and we got right back to seeing Jaylen do what he does best, and that’s dunk with authority

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– But he wasn’t the only one! New and improved Terry Rozier III also dunked! A player that had maybe 3 dunks all year went full 2K (where he dunks everything) and I am fully ready for the breakout year Rozier is about to have

– A lot was made about Marcus Smart losing weight, and he looks great, but I don’t think anyone was ready for a skinnier Marcus who could ALSO shoot.

It’s a bit of a double edged sword, mostly because seeing him make these threes is promising, but it also leads to him doing nothing but shooting threes for the rest of the game. Seven of his eight FGA were from behind the arc, but he did shoot 43%. I repeat, Marcus Smart shot 43% from three in a real (fake) NBA game. Imagine if he stays around 40% all year? Because if this game tells me anything, he will.

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In all honesty, the biggest thing for Marcus to maintain a respectable percentage from deep comes down to the quality of attempts he takes. When he rushes it, or takes an end of shot clock three, they rarely go in. When he takes them within the flow of the offense, he might never miss.

– Perhaps my favorite stat of the night comes from the defense. Holding CHA to 82 points on 37% shooting, and causing 19 turnovers is the type of defensive effort that is going to win the Celts a shit ton of games. Add in the fact that they turned it over just 10 times themselves, this was about as ideal as it comes.

– Yabu is fast as fuck don’t @ me

– How could you not love a wire to wire win? Celts won every quarter and saved their best for the fourth. I feel like we’ve seen that formula before.

The Bad

– It wasn’t all good though, it rarely is. For starters, my second unit fears were somewhat validated. I did not enjoy that gigantic run where the Celts couldn’t seemed to score on one end, and then had no interest in preventing CHA from scoring on the other. Remember how fun it was to build an early 10 point lead? I pity the new Celtics fans who probably thought this was going to lead to a blowout win. This team, despite their new roster, still hates keeping double digit leads. That was annoying.

But I don’t think we should ignore the drought of that second unit. Our veteran shot makers are gone, and there is going to be stretches where this kind of shit happens. I think this is where we see Brad stagger his lineups a little bit, because there are only so many teams you can have drought like that against and still win.

– I find it extremely rude that on multiple occasions players on this team would not throw Jaylen Brown a fast break lob. That’s the whole reason he’s out there!! Tatum’s miss was probably the worst offense, which he then definitely heard from Brad about because next chance he got, he hit the alley-oop. Guys it’s simple, if you see Jaylen anywhere near you on the break, just lob it.

– Yabu did a lot of things well in his debut, but his offensive performance was not one of them. He didn’t make a shot in any of this three FGA, and everything felt a little rushed. Thank God he’s a rebounding monster, and he was probably a little nervous as well, but I can’t say I wasn’t just a tad disappointed.

– I know this is the future of the NBA, and I know we just went through this last year, but jesus do the Celtics love to settle for threes. They took 32 3PA compared to just 13 FTA, and that’s a dangerous ratio in my humble opinion. And really, it was the starters who were the biggest culprits, as 20 of those attempts came in the first half. In fact, outside of Baynes, no starter even shot the ball that well.

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The Ugly

– You know I considered skipping the Ugly section mostly because this was a fake game, but I need to stay on #brand. You can’t miss 6 FTs if it’s going to be your best shooters taking them. Jaylen missed 2, Al missed, Tatum missed, Nader as well. Sure it’s small and insignificant, but it’s a trend I want addressed immediately.

Celts are off until Friday where they play the Sixers in a game I’m sure will mean nothing if Philly sucks and will mean everything if they play well. So insecure Philly is. The good news is after watching the performance last night, I feel a little better about this team than I did a day ago. Mostly I’m happy Celtics basketball is back in general, but seeing them play well right off the bat isn’t too shabby either.