What we learned from Celtics second preseason game
|10.07.12 at 2:26 pm ET|
We may as well start the season now because Rajon Rondo is clearly ready. Rondo repeatedly torched Milano’s defense, burying his first seven shots including a 3-pointer and four free throws in the first quarter as the Celtics left Europe with a split of their exhibition schedule after a 105-75 victory.
Everyone goes under screens on Rondo and everyone knows that when he’s making jump shots there’s basically no way to guard him. It’s way too early to tell if Rondo has conquered his shooting demons — especially at the free throw line where he made all 10 of his attempts in two preseason games — but it’s worth pointing out that he shot a respectable 39 percent on his jumpers from 16-23 feet last season.
Still, the early returns are encouraging and Rondo looks like he’s ready to take his game to another level this season. Here are more takeaways from the C’s preseason victory:
JARED SULLINGER STARTED: When the Celtics acquired Brandon Bass from the Magic, they originally had him as a scoring sixth man whose outside shooting would help open up the floor and take some pressure off the starters. Bass moved into the starting lineup midway through the season and fit in well, but the addition of Sullinger could present an interesting situation for coach Doc Rivers.
Sullinger’s offensive game is way ahead of his defense, which is to be expected for a rookie, and the Celtics have often tried to cover up defensive deficiencies by pairing those players with Kevin Garnett. So great is KG’s impact defensively that the C’s feel he can compensate for at least one weaker defender. Perhaps a little more juice offensively at the start of games would help break them of their slow-start habit and it’s not as if Bass isn’t capable of playing off the bench.
Preseason caveats apply, but it’s obvious that the Celtics will not bring Sullinger along slowly. He had 9 points and 7 rebounds, including three on the offensive glass.
JASON TERRY STARTED TOO: This may be less interesting. Terry and Courtney Lee both figure to play about 30 minutes a game regardless of who’s in the starting lineup, but it’s worth noting that after Lee struggled through a rough preseason opener that Terry got the call instead. That’s the great part of Terry’s game: He can start or relieve.
Terry pumped in 11 points and was an absurd Plus-29 in 28 minutes. Lee had a much stronger outing, making four of his five shots and finishing with 11 points.
JEFF GREEN IS BEING AGGRESSIVE: Rivers let Green on the court for most of the fourth quarter with rookies and undrafted free agents in their preseason opener and told him to go score, which he did. He had him in the game in the second quarter with a lineup that included Terry, Lee, Bass and Darko Milicic and once again Green was the aggressor, taking six shots and six free throws in the first half.
What has stood out about Green’s performance was that he did it in a variety of ways. Not content to simply float on the perimeter or wait for transition opportunities, Green operated out of the post and created shots for himself off the dribble. Green’s aggressiveness may be the most important preseason development to date. He finished with 17 points on nine shots, which is exactly the kind of production the Celtics are hoping to get this season.
THE CULT OF DARKO IS GROWING: Two things about Darko are evident so far. First, he’s huge. The Celtics were one of the smaller teams in the league last season and his presence alone will allow them to match up and give fouls with some of the East’s bigger players like Andrew Bynum and Roy Hibbert. Second, he has a nice passing touch out of the post and can use both hands for passes, shots and blocks.
Before people go putting him in Springfield, remember that Darko has always possessed skill. That’s why he was the second pick in the draft. But if he can give the Celtics anything like his nine rebounds, four blocks and three assists on a consistent basis, they will be very, very happy.
OTHER NOTES: Paul Pierce had a strong outing with 14 points on six shots in 17 minutes. The difference between Pierce in camp this season and last is obvious … 11 points and seven rebounds for Bass? Solid and effective, as usual … The C’s were much better defensively, holding Milano to 31 percent shooting … Playing time has been sporadic, but so far none of the three rookies on non-guaranteed contracts have separated themselves in preseason games … Dionte Christmas poured in nine points in just 10 minutes of action.