Celtics-Nets preview: C's second unit has something to prove


Celtics-Nets preview: C's second unit has something to prove

BOSTON -- The Celtics’ usual starting five has been impressive thus far in the preseason.

And while we haven’t seen them on the floor in a week courtesy of a really spaced out preseason schedule and coach Brad Stevens giving most of them the night off in last Saturday's 104-86 win over Charlotte at the Mohegan Sun Arena, apparently the cohesiveness is just as strong.

Boston’s "White" team (the second unit) has come out on top of the starters earlier in the preseason.

But lately?

Not so much.

“They look really good the last couple days of practice,” said Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, who plays primarily with the "White" unit. “These last couple games they’ve been really locked in and starting to mesh and play really well.”

Said Isaiah Thomas: “We’re starting to beat the second group a little more; that’s why he’s saying that. Things are starting to calm down and guys are starting to take the shots that are there.”

Thomas said one of the issues the starting unit had early on in practice was that they were trying too hard to play with one another by passing up good shots to try and get better ones.

“It kind of backfired on us early on,” Thomas said. “We’re playing unselfish, we’re playing together. We’re getting more comfortable with each other.”

The first and second units get another chance to do that tonight in a preseason game against the Nets at the Barclays Center. 

Unselfish play is something all teams strive towards.

But like most things, too much of it does have a potential downside.

“That’s a good thing though, a team being too unselfish,” Thomas said. “It’s better to be unselfish than have a team of guys that are just looking for their own.”

That selfless play has fueled what has been an impressive across-the-board start by a starting five of Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson.

In the two games they have played together, each player has had a plus/minus of at least +12 in each game.

For the two games combined, Johnson (+30) has the lowest plus/minus among the starters which is still pretty damn good, while Horford leads the first unit with a plus/minus of +42.

Stevens has been pleased with the way his first unit has come together.

“It’s a good group,” Stevens said. “They complement each other well. I still think they’re learning how to play together. There will always be a little bit of an adjustment there. But they do have a contagiousness about them moving the ball which has been nice.”

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.