Celtics 95 Nets 90
First things first, this game was an experimental 44 Minute contest. The NBA is thinking about the wear and tear of 82 forty-eight minute games on a player’s body. Ideas include shorter quarters or cutting the number of games in the preseason or season, that latter of which I support. Eighty-Two games is a lot.
Boston ended the first half down 11, but stormed back, ending the Third Quarter up by 8 on a 14-2 run. They capped it off with an exciting, rare Brandon Bass Three-Pointer in the final seconds. Brooklyn retook the lead briefly, but the Cs defense stayed feisty and enabled enough offense to get ahead and never look back.
The cliche is, “Play each game better than your last one.” If this is the case, Jared Sullinger set some pretty ambitious goals for himself after dropping 21, 8 and 5 on Thursday. It didn’t matter. He went above and beyond on Saturday with 21 Points and 19 Rebounds. He was 7-15 from the Field, and sharp 3-5 from Three. This was his game; everyone else was just playing in it.
Brandon Bass had 16 Points in nineteen Minutes. Jeff Green dropped 14. And Marcus Thornton had 10 Points and 2 Steals. So the uncharacteristic defense continues.
The other big highlight was Marcus Smart’s +16 PER by way of 13 Points, 4 Assists, 2 Rebounds and 3 Steals on 3-8 from Three. He had 5 Fouls in 27 Minutes, but more encouragingly, he only had 2 Turnovers, after 4, 6, and 4 again in the previous three games.
If Smart continues to make the most of his minutes, his role on the team is going to become a major topic of discussion. It’s really no coincidence that the big story right now is that Rondo might be back by Opening Night. Obviously his will power can’t be doubted: he played with a useless arm against the Heat in 2011. He got injured and finished a game after suffering what turned out to be a major ACL injury. He even beat his projected recovery time for that one too. But he’s no fool either, and he knows he’s not doing himself any favors letting Marcus get all of these reps.
Whether or not he does actually want to stick around, this situation is never a good one. If, somewhere down the line this season Smart stands out as starting Point Guard in this league, someone is going to get traded. We’ve known this all along, but it doesn’t jive with all the positivity Rondo has been exuding. Or maybe I’m just being pessimistic. Ideally, if things went well, they wouldn’t have to trade anyone and could just ride that Point Guard gravy train to the end of the line. That of course is unlikely because Rondo is a Free Agent at the end of the year, meaning he could be lost without any compensation if he isn’t dealt by the deadline.
Obviously Smart has a ways to go, but if Rondo makes it through February still wearing a Celtics uniform, the world is his in the offseason. Literally. That kind of freedom is so good, “The World Is Yours” plays on a loop as background music everyday until the next contract is signed.
Forgive me for bantering. Just a little food for thought.
Final thoughts on the game: The Celtics won despite shooting 37.8% to Brooklyn’s 45%. And once again, they shot the ball at a high rate, putting up 90 shots to Brooklyn’s 71. The game is changing and pace is the vehicle. Good defense leads to turnovers, which leads to shot attempts. When the Celtics are fully dialed in on defense, they’re very fun to watch. Especially Marcus Smart, who was just bullying Brooklyn’s guards with his tenacity. It’s contagious, and if they can establish a trend and stick to it, they can be a very good basketball team.
Next up Game 2 of 3 against Brooklyn. The preseason finale.
Homer Johnsen is the Master of Ceremonies at the Celtics Dog-And-Pony Show, which happens after every game, right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.