Celtics

Celtics-Hornets preview: 'A good test' for C's in first preseason game

BOSTON – Whenever the Boston Celtics take to the floor, Brad Stevens always wants to win.

But when it comes to preseason games, success should not be measured in wins and losses which is why the focus for tonight’s preseason opener against the Charlotte Hornets has more to do with steady progress than scoring points.

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“We’re going to get spun around in circles,” Stevens said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what goes well. I’m looking forward to teaching off of what doesn’t. It’s a great team to have to play against.”

The Hornets, who will also be playing in their first preseason game tonight, were a bit of a disappointment last season when they failed to make the postseason after making it in 2016.

Still, they bring back most of their core group from last season which includes all-star and former UConn star Kemba Walker who averaged a career-high 23.2 points while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 39.9 percent from 3-point range which were both career marks as well.

Tonight’s game will also be the first time Celtics Nation will see the team’s new Big Three – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford – play in a game together.

“(Tonight) is going to be a good test for us to see where we’re at, see what we need to do a lot better,” Hayward said. “It seems like it’s coming at us really fast.”

The Celtics opened training camp on Tuesday at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., and now play their first preseason game less than a week later.

“I can’t believe (tonight) is our first preseason game,” Hayward said. “I’m glad that it’s here.”

Irving added, “We still have a long way to go, but we had a good start of the week at camp, and looking forward to many more days where we can get better.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the slimmed down preseason slate that consists of four games as opposed to previous seasons when Boston played seven or eight games.

“The more we get to be around each other, play together, the better we’re going to be in the long run,” Horford said. “We have a lot of really good players. But we know there’s going to be some ups and downs along the way. We just have to keep at it, stay together and keep working to just get better.”

And when you talk about ups and downs, Stevens sees that as a given for his team in the preseason.

“They’ll expose us in ways, things we need to work on to get better,” Stevens said. “And we’ll know what we have to move forward and learn from. I’m looking at it as a practice day, but our guys are going to play. It’ll be really good to be out there together. Inevitably the first game you get spun around some.”

Stevens added, “I’m not putting a ton of stock into the next week of games and results; more, are we making the right progress? We’ve done a lot of good things. I’m excited where we are, all things considered. I’m realistic enough to know we got a long way to go.”

 

Key Matchup

Boston’s Al Horford vs Charlotte’s Dwight Howard

In the summer of 2016, the Celtics had some interest in Howard in case their top target, Horford, fell through. Horford eventually signed with Boston and Howard wound up taking Horford’s old job with the Atlanta Hawks. The lone starter back for Boston from last season, Horford will continue in his role as a major facilitator which led to him averaging a career-high five assists per game last season. Howard doesn’t dominate games as much as he did a few years ago, but he did average 12.7 rebounds per game last season (fifth in the NBA) and had a defensive rating of 100.4 which was also fifth-best in the league.

 

Key Storyline

First game for Boston’s Big Three of Irving, Hayward and Horford.

 

“Quote, Unquote”

“This is Day One of a long road ahead, of a long journey for all of us going through it together.” – Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving.

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