Five takeaways from Celtics-76ers: New...and improved
BOSTON – Even though the preseason wins won’t amount to anything when it comes to how the Celtics' season plays out, it’s always a good thing to come out ahead whenever you’re on the floor.
But for the 2-0 Celtics, they're winning at another game even more vital to their season.
They are winning the game of improvement, which is evident by the undeniable growth we’re seeing in their young players from one game to the next, as well as the improved connectivity between their core group.
In their 110-102 preseason win over Philadelphia, Boston left with a sense that while there’s still lots of room for improvement on both sides of the ball but the team is trending in the right direction along those lines.
Here are five takeaways from Friday night’s win over the Sixers:
Tatum ‘way more comfortable’
Jayson Tatum said as much to reporters after the game, but he really didn’t need to. There was a clear ease about his play that was very different than what we saw in the preseason opener last week against Charlotte. Maybe that was just first-game jitters we saw, or maybe it was him not being on the floor with the best group to help him be effective. Whatever the reason, folks saw a different-looking Tatum on Friday with the starters and saw that Tatum is pretty damn good.
Irving getting his groove back
After a not-so-great first preseason game, Kyrie Irving came up with 21 points on Friday, 11 of which came in the third quarter. More than anything, the dude looks bored out there. And then came the Sixers, who kept going underneath the pick and essentially daring Irving to shoot from the perimeter. Don’t think for a minute he didn’t notice and didn’t feel obligated to make Philly pay for it. “Coach [Brett] Brown is such an awesome coach,” Irving said. “I think he was just doing that to mess with me at the beginning of the game. If they continue to go under, I’m going to continue to shoot.”
Smart’s in Game 7 mode now
The calendar said it was preseason Game No. 2, but you would have thought a playoff berth was on the line the way Marcus Smart was throwing his body around. It’s good to see that the weight loss has not impacted his ability to make hustle plays defensively. Throw in the fact he had another strong night shooting the ball (11 points, 4-for-6 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and three steals) and it’s clear that Smart is absolutely ready for the season.
Baynes sneaky-good pickup
When Aron Baynes signed with Boston, it was seen as a move to provide Boston some defensive help/depth up front. But two games into the preseason, it’s clear that Baynes can do quite a few things to help the Celtics. His defense is what folks talk the most about, but thus far he has shown the ability to be a good pick-and-roll finisher along with being a solid pick-and-pop scorer, which has helped him to be the only Boston player to hit double figures scoring in the first two preseason games.
Bench starting to take shape
When Brad Stevens made the decision to have Smart come off the bench in the preseason, you figured Terry Rozier would also be part of the team’s second unit. With Marcus Morris now with the team, he too will be in the mix as well as Baynes. Tatum will start, as was the case on Friday, or come off the bench. The biggest surprise thus far has been the steady play of Daniel Theis, who played with lots of energy in Germany, especially on defense, and has so far translated it well.