Here we go. Lucky’s Chicken is prepared to be served. The parquet is itching to be used for some real basketball. Though the new-look Boston Celtics took the court for the first time, it will not feel real until a competitive contest occurs between the walls of TD Garden.
In front of the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, Joe Mazzulla’s Celts encountered both ebbs and flow throughout the 48 minutes. While it may be early, Jayson Tatum wrote the first one or two pages of his MVP campaign which will be submitted in April. The seven-foot-two Latvian Kristaps Porzingis introduced himself to Celtics fans for the first time in green, hosting a block party while displaying his entire offensive package.
After the first 12 minutes, Boston was unable to keep its foot on the gas. New York, with its home fans behind it, showed everyone why it made the 2023 postseason: grit and working on the glass. There was a lot to love, but that did not come without some concerns. It is the first step of this version of the Boston Celtics. It’s going to take time. Miami coming to town for an Eastern Conference Finals rematch provides the ball club another opportunity to flesh out some of the questions that were raised when the buzzer sounded in NY.
Coming off a second consecutive triumph in the season opener, here is what to look for on the parquet floor on national television on Friday night.
3 trends to look for in the Boston Celtics’ home opener against the Miami Heat
Can Boston finish defensive possessions unlike it did in New York?
With Robert Williams across the country, this is something to keep an eye on. Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson combined for the same amount of offensive rebounds as the entire Celtics team on Wednesday night. That concern from the pre-season against this same opponent carried over into the regular season.
Since 2019, Boston has allowed a team to snatch 17 offensive rebounds 18 times, nine of those including the opener this year resulted in a win. That is what the Knicks do though. Randle and Robinson in the starting lineup make boxing out essential, and with Isaiah Hartenstein in the second unit, you can’t lose your focus. The defending Eastern Conference champions are not as reliant on securing second chances as the Knicks are. That should not matter.
Rebounding is about the team. It is not the center’s job to grab it off the glass and find an outlet every time. Don’t take this for a fact, but according to NBA.com, the Boston Celtics recorded just three blockouts throughout the entire opener. New York put up 20 more shots than Boston. Getting multiple attempts on just one trip down the floor is the biggest reason why. It sounds like common sense but it’s true, the more shots you put at the rim, the more chances of it going in. Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro can punish Mazzulla’s men even more than New York did.
Can the Celtics bench be more productive, specifically Sam Hauser, and Payton Pritchard?
Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard combined to go 0/7 from the great beyond. Don’t put your money on that happening a second time. Last season against the Knicks, Hauser failed to connect on a three-point attempt in February, but followed it up by shooting 50% from downtown in a win against Cleveland.
Since 2015, the Boston Celtics’ bench has only scored 12 points or less in just 18 games during the regular season. Sure, this ball club has one of the best starting lineups in the league, but 12 points from the bench unit is not a great sign if an injury does come up. It’s not a matter of, “this team needs more depth”, it’s more about staying patient with the guys that are going to get chances. Mazzulla is not asking for a contribution of 15 points for a single player night in and night out, almost like Malcolm Brogdon provided. The idea is to make good on those opportunities in the flow of the offense with the attention geared toward Boston’s top four players. Look for those shots to fall tonight with the fans playing a key part in driving up confidence.
A Jaylen Brown bounce-back performance on the parquet
If you have any concern for Jaylen Brown this season, check the history books. You don’t even have to go back that far. Not counting games in which the Georgia native left due to injury, No. 7 averaged 30 points per game in both the regular season and postseason in the games after which he failed to reach at least 17 points.
Sure, 4-11 from the field is not how you want to begin any season. There’s a reason why this man was paid over $300 million during the offseason. If you’re someone pondering who the second-best player is going to be this season, ask yourself why it matters. Porzingis will have nights like these eventually. Brown will pick him up. This organization has seen what he is capable of, especially coming off a poor performance. In the three regular season contests in which he suited up against Miami last season, the University of California product averaged over 30 points per game.
On Wednesday night, Tatum kept it real expressing his opinion on why No. 7 is going to be just fine, stating, “It was just one game. We know how special he is. Everybody’s going to have not great shooting nights”