The Boston Celtics ran the tables in the preseason which they capped off with a 108-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets to finish with a 4-0 preseason record.
While they clearly played well enough to win every time they stepped on the floor, they are by no means blinded by that success.
"It's good," Marcus Smart told reporters afterwards. "We gotta keep going. It's good to take away. We still have a lot to learn, a lot to go through."
While that is true, there's no escaping the fact that the Celtics have shown a level of cohesiveness at both ends of the floor, that has them maybe ahead of where most - including players - expected them to be at this point in the season.
"I think so," Smart said. "We have a lot of guys, a lot of new guys. Everybody playing off one another getting great touches and great looks."
Kyrie Irving: It’s clear that Irving is very much rounding into regular season form, delivering another strong performance in helping lead Boston to victory. He finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 assists without playing a single minute in the fourth quarter, in addition to grabbing five rebounds.
Gordon Hayward: He’s gradually finding his way as a scorer for Boston, in addition to doing all the little things necessary to win. He had 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Malik Monk: The rookie is coming off the bench now, but don’t be surprised if he’s in the starting lineup at some point this season – sooner rather than later, most likely. He led all scorers with 21 points with six rebounds while shooting 4-for-10 from 3-point range.
Al Horford: Quiet. Efficient. Successful. That has been at the core of Horford’s basketball career, and Monday’s preseason game was no exception. He finished with a near double-double with 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.
Jaylen Brown: He had 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting, but it was his versatility as a defender that really stuck out as he held his own defensively against a quicker Kemba Walker, and yet still had enough strength to deal with Marvin Williams.
Dwight Howard: He didn’t play a ton of minutes, but Howard looked pretty good when he was on the floor. He had 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting with six rebounds in just under 23 minutes.
Marvin Williams: Nicolas Batum’s elbow injury will keep him sidelined for at least six weeks, which means Hornets fans will see more of Williams. That’s not a good thing he plays like he did on Wednesday, scoring two points while missing seven of his eight shot attempts.
The Boston Celtics’ starters worked up a good sweat, everyone came out of the game healthy and the end-of-the bench players showed great poise in executing in the game’s final minutes.
There was little for the Celtics to grumble about following a 108-100 win over Charlotte to cap off their preseason schedule with a perfect 4-0 record.
For most of Wednesday’s game, the last thing anyone anticipated Boston needing was to execute effectively down the stretch, especially the way their Big Three – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford – played.
Irving had a double-double of 16 points and 10 assists. Hayward had a nice game, scoring 13 points to go with six rebounds and four assists.
Al Horford made his presence felt as well, tallying 15 points, 8 rebounds and four assists.
As for the win, kudos to Shane Larkin who took over in the final minute of play for Boston.
Larkin’s 3-point play with 45.5 seconds to play, followed by a driving lay-up with 12.7 seconds to play sealed the victory.
Boston opened the game with a barrage of 3’s which paved the way for a 22-12 start. But the Hornets chipped away at Boston’s lead and trailed 24-20 after the first quarter. For the game, Boston was 16-for-32 on 3’s.
But the Charlotte Hornets used the 3-point shot to get back into the game.
In fact, a 3-pointer by Charlotte’s Malik Monk put the Hornets ahead 29-28. Monk finished with a game-high 21 points.
But the Celtics responded with a 12-2 run capped off by a Terry Rozier basket that made it a 40-31 game.
Celtics forward Marcus Morris, who saw action in the first quarter which was his first time on the court with Boston, returned in the second quarter and played primarily with the other starters.
It was a good look for the Celtics as they went on a 15-5 run that gave Boston a 57-38 lead going into the half.
Boston continued to pull away, doing so in similar fashion to what we’ve seen in the previous three preseason games.
Their defense, which Celtics players admitted was ahead of their offensive execution, was solid as ever with players contesting shots, grabbing defensive rebounds and most important, maintaining control of the action.