Phil Pressey makes first career start, leads Celtics to victory
|01.16.14 at 12:24 am ET|
A few minutes into the third quarter, Phil Pressey jetted around a pick-and-roll, confidently rose for an 18-foot jump shot and connected. But before he could celebrate a whistle sounded: A Boston foul nullified Pressey’s first points as a Celtic starter.
“I felt like that really was going to get me goin. When I finally hit one, it felt good,” Pressey said with a smile after Wednesday night’s game.
Pressey never scored those elusive first two points, but with Boston’s 10-game losing streak snapped in the team’s 88-83 win over the Raptors, he can now boast about his 1-0 record as a starting point guard in the NBA.
The undrafted rookie free agent’s 0-for-5 shooting line and zero points were not indicative of the impact he made on the game. Pressey dished out a career-high 10 assists and did not commit a single turnover in 26 minutes of play — also a career-high.
Pressey liked the 10 dimes, but not as much as the zero turnovers.
“I know if I take care of the ball, I know I’m giving my team an opportunity to get more shots up. That’s what I pride myself on,” Pressey said.
The Celtics‘ thinness at the guard position necessitated Pressey’s insertion into the lineup. (Starting point guard Jordan Crawford and reserve guard MarShon Brooks were dealt to the Warriors, Rajon Rondo is still out, and Keith Bogans indefinitely left the team for personal reasons).
Pressey said he was alerted of his promotion in shootaround. Yet the suddenness of the promotion was not alarming.
“The guys embraced me from the start, like I’ve been there from day one, so it was very easy for me to step in and help my team out,” Pressey said.
Pressey started off slowly, but he helped spark a 6-0 run to end the half that put Boston ahead 45-41. With under one minute left, Pressey and Jared Sullinger executed a pick-and-roll that culminated with Sullinger canning a long running jumper. Pressey then pick-pocketed Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry and set off in transition where he found a trailing Avery Bradley with a smooth behind-the-back pass for an easy layup. Then Pressey collected a Raptors miss and alertly sent an outlet pass to Bradley, who had leaked ahead of the field. Bradley was fouled and made both free throws.
Pressey helped extend Boston’s lead to 17 with three assists in the third quarter.
“I thought when things got tough, he got tough,” Stevens said.
And things got tough in the fourth quarter. The Celtics blew their massive lead, and suddenly found themselves nursing a three-point advantage in the waning moments. But Pressey helped weather the storm and Boston eked out the win.
“To his credit, I thought he pulled guys in and together instead of when something doesn’t go our way we’re not together,” Stevens said.
There’s speculation that Rondo will return on Friday against the Lakers. But Boston hopes to ease Rondo back into action, and Pressey’s strong outing suggests that he’ll continue to see big minutes until Rondo’s healthy.