Five takeaways from Celtics-76ers: Rozier capitalizes on opportunity
BOSTON – It seems no matter who the Boston Celtics throw out there on the floor, good things seem to happen. It certainly has been that way in the preseason for the Celtics who improved to 3-0 following a 113-96 win over Philadelphia on Monday.
But with each win, Boston looks to do more than notch another ‘W.’
They are seeking growth, both individually and for the collective group.
As much as the players and head coach Brad Stevens have talked about the team’s development, more telling is how they are seen by opponents.
“They started the game more physical than we were,” said Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “I give them credit where they made shots. I thought that defensively … they bothered our offense and we had a hard time guarding them and it just sort of set the table for the rest of the game.”
The Celtics delivered massive blows at both ends of the floor, the kind of performance that really highlighted just how far apart these two teams are when you consider Boston sat its Big Three of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, which meant the carnage they stacked up against the Sixers was done primarily by backups.
But as good as they played, the players are far from satisfied.
“We’re young; we’re still learning,” said Celtics guard Marcus Smart.
Here are five takeaways from Monday’s win over Philadelphia.
While there may appear to be yet another season in which there’s a logjam in the backcourt, Rozier will go into the season as the team’s primary backup at point guard. He won’t get a ton of opportunities to play big minutes, but he has shown himself capable of taking advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself. In the win over the Sixers, Rozier tallied a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds while dishing out an additional six assists.
He has played starter-like minutes regardless of whether he was with the first or second unit. So it’s not all that surprising that the 6-foot-4 guard was solid in his first start this preseason. The defense and all-out hustle that has defined Smart in the NBA, is still alive and well. But his improved shooting touch from the perimeter makes him a more complete player and with that, someone whose value in the eyes of the Celtics has only increased in time.
Look for Ojeleye to find a way to get on the floor as the season progresses. The second-round pick has the kind of catch-and-shoot game that benefits from being on a team with players who are really good at kick-out passes following dribble-drive penetration. Against the Sixers, Ojeleye led all players with 16 points which included him being 4-for-7 on 3’s.
For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics came away victorious on the boards. It’s the preseason and you obviously don’t want to read too much into their success, especially knowing the lineups that they have faced in all likelihood are weaker than the ones they will see when the regular season starts next week. But the success builds a certain amount of confidence that this team desperately needs when it comes to rebounding the ball, the kind of confidence they hope will be a springboard to success on the glass this season.
EMBIID GETS EXTENSION FROM SIXERS
Monday’s beatdown by Boston was yet another reminder as to how important Joel Embiid is to this Philadelphia team going forward. Embiid, who did not play while still working his way back into shape following knee surgery in March, agreed to a five-year, $148 million contract extension. Despite having played just 31 games since the Sixers drafted him with the third overall pick in 2014, there’s no denying Embiid’s impact as a player. There are few players in the league with his size, strength, versatility and athleticism. But for the most part, his production has been dwarfed by injuries which have limited him for years. You hate to lock up big money in a guy with such a long history of injuries, but his talent makes it a gamble worth taking. And when you look around at Philly’s roster, they have nothing even remotely close to making the kind of impact on games that he can.