The Celtics came up just a bit short last night after playing their first preseason game in the states versus the New York Knicks. Just like the games in Turkey and Milan, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger were the bright spots for Boston and both led the team in scoring off the bench. While it’s only preseason, a lot can be taken away from last night’s game, not only for the players who are guaranteed a spot on the team, but for rookies and young guys who are fighting for the last spot on the Celtics roster.
The story of the game was mainly the fourth quarter and into overtime. Other than confirming who will be in the starting lineup on a nightly basis for Boston, for the rookies who are trying to make the team, last night’s game was important for them to show that they can play on this team.
Jared Sullinger continues to surprise, and quite honestly he’s making the case that he should be starting. I understand it’s only preseason, and I’ve told myself not to buy into the hype, but I believe he’s close to being ready for the starting job. His defense is definitely going to need some improvement however, but if he starts, playing along side Kevin Garnett will help his individual defense considerably. Sullinger finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds before fouling out. What I saw from him down in the post was not rookie-like. He has some real good post moves, and unlike some of the other rookie big men we’ve had in previous years, he is very polished when it comes to playing in the paint.
For the guys like Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph, Jamar Smith, and Micah Downs, last night’s game could have been a defining moment for some of them. Late in the fourth quarter it got sloppy, there were a lot of careless passes that could have been prevented, but it’s understandable seeing that their chemistry as a unit might not be there. Micah Downs probably impressed me the most, despite the fact he might not have a great shot at making the team. He was aggressive, not out of control, made shots in the clutch, and grabbed rebounds.
I’ve been asked a few times this week who will make the roster. Right now, I’m sticking with Dionte Christmas, only because he looks more poised and ready for the NBA. He didn’t have a spectacular night or fill up the stat sheet, but he just knows where to be and where to pass the ball. If given the opportunity, he can play in this league, if not for Boston, definitely for someone else. One thing I’d like to see from Christmas is for him to take more shots. He passed up a number of wide open looks, and I know from watching him in the summer league, he can make those shots.
The last thing to take away from last night’s game was the different lineups Doc Rivers was going with. Midway through the first quarter we got a look at one of their bigger lineups consisting of Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Darko Milicic. Personally, I like the versatility that lineup brings, and the scoring threats of Pierce, Rondo, and Jeff Green on the court at the same time. Earlier in the week, Doc Rivers talked about changing up the starting lineups, but it also seems like he’s working on situational lineups that he can use during the course of a game.
The Celtics next game is against the Philadelphia 76ers. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing Andrew Bynum, but it’s the first time Boston is playing Philadelphia since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The game starts at 7 p.m., and if it’s anything like tonight, we’re in for one entertaining game. Especially if it’s close late in the fourth quarter.