After the Celtics lost another preseason game on Tuesday, Rajon Rondo didn’t sugarcoat his thoughts. “We’re nowhere near where we want to be,” he said. “We’ve got to be a better pick and roll team [defensively], a better help-side team and obviously a better rebounding team.”
The preseason wins and losses don’t matter, but at some point the C’s wanted to start playing like the team they expect to see on opening night in Miami. Finally, in the first quarter of their exhibition rematch with the Nets in Brooklyn, the Celtics looked like the Celtics.
With Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee in the starting lineup, the Celtics held Brooklyn to 3-for-16 shooting and just 15 points in the first quarter. They forced seven turnovers and came up with six steals — three by Lee — and generally made life miserable for Brooklyn’s regular starting five.
When the starters went out, the reserves — led by Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Brandon Bass — were efficient and productive. The Celtics shot 56 percent in the first half and had a 59-44 at the break. After a sluggish start to the second half, they picked it up again and cruised to a 115-85 win.
Here are some takeaways:
Paul Pierce is in regular-season form: After dropping 29 points on 17 shots against the Nets on Tuesday, Pierce said that it was time to get going. “I was really disappointed with the way I played the last couple of games, he said. “So, I wanted to start picking it up right now.” Consider his game picked up. Pierce followed up Tuesday night’s effort with 18 points on just 9 shots, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass played together: Like a lot of teams, the Nets don’t really have a backup center so when they went with Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans, Doc Rivers countered with Sullinger and Bass. It was the first time the two have been in the lineup together and while it’s not fair to call either one of them a “center,” they held their own inside. It’s yet another interesting look, especially with Darko Milicic (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (back) out of the lineup.
At one point Rivers had Sullinger, Bass and Green on the floor along with Rondo and Lee, making for a far more athletic and dynamic look than anything he’s been able to put together in years.
Jason Terry and Courtney Lee on the break: After years of watching the Celtics not run with Rondo, it’s a little strange to see backcourt partners who can’t wait to get up and down the floor with him. Lee’s young legs and athleticism were an obvious draw when he was acquired him from Houston, but Terry has been a bit of a revelation in transition. His favorite move is to hang back as the trailer and wait for Rondo to find him for wide-open 3′s on the secondary break, while Lee is straight speed to the rim.
Lee finished with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, while Terry made all 5 of his 3-pointers for 15 points. The roles will sort themselves out, but it seems clear that Rondo will have plenty of options next to him this season.
Kevin Garnett had a solid night: In four preseason games, Garnett has averaged less than 5 points and 4 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action. It’s not as if anyone was worried about KG’s lack of production. Still it was still time for him to kick it up a notch, and he did with 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting in 22 minutes.
Kris Joseph made an impression: It sure looks like the second-round draft pick from Syracuse will make the final 15-man roster, but nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA until it is contractually. Given some time with the regulars and all of the fourth quarter to make an impressions, Joseph dropped in 11 points to go with 5 rebounds and showed the kind of versatile offensive game the Celtics liked when they drafted him.