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What we learned from Celtics first preseason game

10.05.12 at 4:39 pm ET
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The good news for the Celtics in their 97-91 loss against Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul is that Rajon Rondo looked like he was already in midseason form. Rondo knocked down all six of his free throw attempts and handed out nine assists to go with 13 points.

The bad news is that the C’s defense was shredded at times on the pick and roll and generally looked a step slow. FBU shot 51 percent in the first half against the Celtics’ regulars and scored 55 points, led by former Xavier star Romain Sato who scored 16 of his game-high 24 points. Turnovers (25, including five by Rondo) and rebounding were also concerns.

The result wasn’t nearly as important as the process, however, and here are a few early insights into the 2012-13 Celtics:

The 5-5-5 plan is still in operation: Kevin Garnett got off to a quick start, burying a couple of jumpers, and then was subbed for Darko Milicic at around the 6-minute mark. He returned late in the first quarter and was back on the bench after about four minutes of gametime. Don’t expect that to change much, if ever, this season. Doc Rivers has said repeatedly that he wished he had come up with this substitution plan earlier and keeping KG fresh for the postseason remains the Number One concern.

Jeff Green looked really good: Green got his first action since the 2011 playoffs when he checked in for Brandon Bass midway through the first quarter. Rivers wants to utilize Green and Pierce together and while the duo may have some defensive matchup issues to work through, the Celtics were notably faster when they were in the game.

Green converted a nifty feed from Rondo into a three-point play and then hammered home a follow-up dunk on a Terry miss. That’s the kind of athleticism and scoring punch that were sorely lacking last season. Just getting back on the court was an important step for Green, who scored 16 points in 26 minutes, but if he can provide that kind of spark it will make the Celtics a much more dynamic squad.

Courtney Lee started, for one half: No surprises in the opening lineup with Lee in there with the starters and Jason Terry coming off the bench. When Rondo was out of the game, Terry generally operated as the point guard but Rivers wants to utilize a  point guard heavy look when Rondo is off the court.

Lee had a rough night, registering a minus-17 in the first half, while picking up five fouls and missing open jumpers. Terry, on the other hand, showed his shot-creating ability right from the outset, scoring 12 points and was in the starting lineup to start the second half. Don’t read too much into the starter end of things. Until Avery Bradley comes back, this is a three-guard rotation in the best possible sense.

Jared Sullinger is in the rotation (and may not be coming out): With Chris Wilcox out with back spasms, the Ohio State rookie was the fourth player off the bench in the first half. As he showed in summer league, Sullinger has a knack for scoring and rebounding as evidenced by his 16 points and 8 rebounds.

Defensively, he needs a little work. Taller FBU players scored with relative ease over the top, an indication that he needs to do his work before the ball gets into the post. A few more sessions in KG’s Finishing School for Aspiring Big Men will no doubt help, but like most rookies, the finer points of NBA post defense are an issue.

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