BOSTON — The Boston Celtics closed out their preseason schedule with an unblemished 4-0 record, with a staggering margin of victory of 31.3 points per game over their final three contests.
Of course, none of the teams beaten so badly (Orlando, Cleveland twice) by Boston are expected to be title contenders. And in each of the games, at least one key player for the opposition did not play or saw limited action.
The same could be said for the Celtics, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that most of the foes Boston faced, are not the teams that will stand in the way of them once again being on the short list of contenders in the East this season.
A weak slate of preseason pushovers is the kind of stretch most NBA teams endure at some point during the regular season when they encounter a string of teams that on paper they should have no problem beating.
To the Celtics' credit, they absolutely smashed the teams that they were supposed to which is one of the many takeaways Boston can feel good about now that the preseason schedule is complete.
Here are five additional takeaways as the Celtics spend the next week preparing for their season opener at Philadelphia on Oct. 23.
In the three preseason games Jaylen Brown played, the fourth-year wing showed signs of being the two-way standout he envisions himself as being. He shot 52.4 percent from the field, which was tops among all Celtics who logged at least 18 minutes per game in the preseason. He also showed a greater willingness to get others involved, evident by a team-best 3.0 assists-to-turnover ratio. It’s an important stat considering Brown has never had a season in which his assists-to-turnover ratio was better than 1.01. And his defense was strong as well, with a defensive rating of 63.9, leading all Celtics who appeared in at least three preseason games.
The Celtics need Jayson Tatum to show a high level of aggressiveness offensively, more frequently. During the three preseason games he played in, Tatum continued to mix up his shot selection but didn’t let up in terms of attacking defenses, whether it was with his perimeter shooting or finishes at the rim. Tatum led the Celtics in the preseason with a usage percentage of 29.8, which — if he were to maintain for this upcoming season — would be a career-best for the third-year forward.
We are going to be talking a lot about Boston’s defense all season. While it is by no means pretty, the Celtics defense doesn’t have nearly as many warts as we thought. The big concern remains what they will do at center. The preseason didn’t do much to provide clarity, although Daniel Theis and Robert Williams III look like the favorites to start while Enes Kanter will get steady minutes off the bench as the team’s sixth man. While Boston’s defense played well in the last three preseason games, it’s hard to get a true feel for how good the Celtics really are due to the underwhelming competition they faced.
Chances are slim that any of the handful of rookies with the Celtics this year will be in the running for the league’s Rookie of the Year award. But all have shown moments — some more than others — of being not only an NBA player but a difference maker. Carsen Edwards is coming off a 30-point game in Boston’s win at Cleveland. Grant Williams and Tremont Waters have shown they might be able to contribute sooner rather than later as well. Injuries have limited Romeo Langford, but when he has played, it’s clear why the Celtics thought so highly of him leading into the draft. And then there’s Tacko Fall, the 7-foot-7 sensation whose game continues to show growth as well and will continue along that path now that he has a two-way contract.
There’s a clear acclimation process going on with Kemba Walker and the Celtics, but there were a number of encouraging signs, particularly on offense. Considering he played 18.1 minutes per game, his 12.0 points per game average is nothing to get worked up about. More telling was how he utilized his time on the floor to get shots that frankly, came about a lot freer than he was accustomed to in Charlotte.
And the result was Walker connecting on 46.2 percent of his field goal attempts and 62.5 percent of his 3’s.
Now the 3-point shooting will certainly take a dip when the regular season begins, but it’s not a stretch for Walker to shoot 46 percent or better from the field this season. To put that in perspective, Walker has never shot better than 44.4 percent from the field in a given season.
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