Game over, Fenerbahce wins 97-91: One of the big questions heading into this season is whether Jeff Green was worth the multi-year contract the Celtics gave him this offseason. The question cannot be answered in one night against an international opponent, of course, but the Georgetown product helped his case with a strong fourth quarter Friday against Fenebahce Ulker in Istanbul.
Green scored 16 points, tying Jared Sullinger for the team-high, and led a near-comeback for the Celtics in the fourth quarter. Green scored 11 points in the final frame as the Celtics' second and third units came within three points after the first unit built a 12-point deficit.
Sullinger was also strong, serving as one of Boston's few bright spots for the first three quarters. He added eight rebounds to his 16 points.
Simply put, Boston's backcourt had no response to Fenerbahce's combo of Bo McCalebb and Romain Sato. Sato was perfect on four attempts from beyond the arc en route to a game-high 24 points and McCalebb dominated out of the pick-and-roll, scoring 21 points and dishing out five assists. McCalebb took any Celtics guard who covered him, from Rajon Rondo to Jason Terry, off the dribble at will.
Fourth quarter, 1:29, Fenerbahce 94-89: The Celtics probably will not win this one, but Green has flashed his skills with the second unit. The Celtics really can run their second unit offense through Green, as he is an excellent passer and solid ballhandler for a forward. Given the opportunity, he can even post up a smaller three on the block.
Fourth quarter, 4:41, Fenerbahce 91-84: The middle of the fourth quarter — and possibly the rest of the game — was backup time for the Celtics. A victory would be nice, but they cannot chase a win at the expense of seeing what Smith, Melo, Christmas and the rest can do.
Sullinger had one of his few bad moments when he failed to rotate fast enough to help defend a pick-and-roll, letting McCalleb dash to the hoop past Smith and draw an and-one foul on Christmas in the process. As strong as Sullinger has been on the block and on the glass, the scouting report of him not being the best help defender appears to be true. Like Bass last year, Sullinger will need to improve that area of his game if he expects to play much for Rivers.
Fourth quarter, 8:15, Fenerbahce 86-78: Jamar Smith started the fourth quarter, with Rivers obviously looking to provide a spark off the bench. So far, though, the best play continued to be down low involving Sullinger.
Green and Sullinger showed a nice ability to play off each other, with Green finding Sullinger for a physical layup in the post. Sullinger has a team-high 16 points and eight rebounds, and has made minimal mistakes defensively.
End of third quarter, Fenerbahce 79-72: The Celtics have made a game of it, and aside from Garnett, the first unit has been much more active than we expected.
Pierce, Lee and Rondo all played more than 20 minutes in the first three quarters, with Bass just 33 seconds shy of the 20-minute mark. Rondo played more than 30 minutes, helping him build up a strong stat line of 13 points and nine assists with three steals, although Rivers surely would like to see him cut down on those five turnovers.
Third quarter, 2:30, Fenerbahce, 72-62: One of the problems Bass had last season was that if he did not get his jump shot off right away, he had no second option. Teams would throw double-teams at him and force turnovers of awkward plays, since Bass' passing skills were not very refined.
On several plays in this game, Bass showed a couple of complementary moves. He received the ball in the high post with his back to the hoop, faced up and then drilled a quick jumper before the double-team arrived. He faded out on an aborted pick-and-pop with Rondo to nail a free throw line jumper, and he also drew a foul by using his underrated first step.
So far the two most encouraging players in this game are the two power forwards, Bass and Sullinger.
Third quarter, 5:47, Fenerbache 68-58: Sullinger was the Celtics' best player in the first half, and he kept it up early in the second half. The rookie showed energy with a tough basket inside to give him 10 points, the second-most on the team behind Terry's 12. Brandon Bass also give the Celtics a few aggressive plays on offense, drawing a pair of shooting fouls and hitting three of the four foul shots.
Halftime, Fenerbahce 55-45: The score of preseason games does not mean a whole lot, and Doc Rivers made clear that he would not judge his team based on its preseason win-loss record. So whether the Celtics come back to win this game is unimportant.
What is important, though, is that the C's show a little more consistency on offense and defense. They committed 14 fouls and turned the ball over at virtually every opportunity, fumbling it away 14 times in the first 24 minutes.
The Celtics' starting backcourt was especially underwhelming, and new starting shooting guard Courtney Lee was just plain bad. Lee was 1-for-4 from the field and picked up five fouls in less than 18 minutes. We never really noticed it before when he played for Houston, New Jersey and Orlando, but the way he sort of rolls the ball above his head in his shooting form cannot help his percentage. Rondo, after a strong start, tripped into halftime with one assist and two turnovers in the second quarter.
Second quarter, 5:54, Fenerbahce 43-37: Part of the logic behind drafting Sullinger was to help the Celtics improve their putrid rebounding. In his first eight minutes of action, the Ohio State product showed why he can help in that area. Sullinger pulled down four boards in 7:50, including two offensive rebounds. He was one of the few brights spots in an ugly first six minutes of the second quarter, when the C's seemed intent on setting the Ulker Sports Arena record for turnovers.
Second quarter, 8:29, Fenerbahce 39-35: One of the Celtics' missions this season is to cut down on turnovers, but they were not off to a good start in Istanbul. The C's turned the ball over seven times in the first 16 minutes, and Garnett was responsible for three of those alone. The hideous display of ball non-control allowed Fenerbahce to retake the lead even though Terry and several of the Celtics' regular players were on the floor.
End of first quarter, Celtics 27-26: Rondo appeared to be going at three-quarters speed, at best, but not surprisingly he was still easily the best player on the floor. The Boston point guard played the entire first 12 minutes and racked up seven points, five assists and two steals with only one turnover. He drained a 3-pointer on the Celtics' final possession of the quarter to give the Celtics the lead.
Pierce also played a significant amount of time in the first quarter, finally getting subbed out with 1:40 left. Jared Sullinger made the earliest entrance for one of the Celtics' many first-year guys, getting on the board quickly with a layup in traffic off a feed from Rondo.
First quarter, 2:55, Fenerbahce 22-18: Milicic, Green and Terry spent considerable time playing with Pierce and Rondo in the first quarter, which still has almost three minutes to go. Milicic was the first player off the bench for the Celtics and made a nifty reverse touch-pass on an offensive rebound while sitting in the foul lane. (Don't ask why he was seated, though.)
First quarter, 5:43, Fenerbahce 18-8: Jason Terry made his first appearance in a Celtics game, hopping off the bench at the 6:32 mark with Boston behind 14-8. The Celtics look lazy early on, seemingly not taking Fenerbahce entirely seriously.
A note on a few of the rule differences you might have noticed: Under FIBA rules, a player cannot move either foot before dribbling, which is why Garnett's jab-step-through move was whistled a travel. Also, there is no goaltending, so we have seen the Fenerbahce players go for rebounds while the ball is still above the cylinder.
First quarter, 10:58, Fenerbahce 3-2: There goes the shutout for the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett opened the scoring with a stepback jumper, but Romain Sato answered with a 3-pointer at the other end. Sato, a former star at Xavier, and point guard Bo McCallebb are two of Fenerbahce's best players.
Wilcox turned out to be a scratch for the Celtics with back spasms, but Green is a go.
2:02 p.m.: The Celtics and Fenerbahce are a couple moments from tip-off, meaning "scar buddies" Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green are close to taking the floor as Celtics teammates for the first time. The two were teammates for two seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, but they have a renewed bond since both were diagnosed with heart abnormalities last season.
From the looks of it, there are numerous Celtics jerseys in the crowd at Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul. Celtics rookie Dionte Christmas, who spent part of the 2010-11 season in the Turkish Basketball League, said the Celtics gained a minor following in the country when they briefly employed Turkish center Semih Erden two seasons ago.
1 p.m.: Get ready for the JET, Melo and Darko Show. While many Celtics fans might be eager to see Courtney Lee in action with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, the first unit might not be heavily featured in today's game — nor should they be. As this is the first preseason game, against an unfamiliar opponent from a lower-tier professional league, there is not much for the veterans to gain.
The players with much to gain are the likes of Jason Terry, Fab Melo, Darko Milicic and the like. Anyone who was a new addition this offseason, particularly the rookies, has a chance to prove they deserve a spot on the roster or in the rotation once the regular season starts. Celtics fans can also take their first long look at Jared Sullinger and determine for themselves if they think his reported back troubles really were mere fantasy.
See you in an hour.
8 a.m.: Basketball is back!
Well, almost. The Celtics are a little less than a month
away from their regular-season opener in Miami, but in the meantime they are
brushing up on their Turkish. The first opponent on this year’s preseason slate
is Fenerbahce Ulker, which we are told is one of the better squads in the
Turkish Basketball League. We suspect that is a lot like being one of the
better soccer teams in MLS, so the Celtics should walk away with a fairly easy
victory at Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul.
Still, there are worse ways to spend a Friday afternoon than
by watching basketball. This will be the first chance for Celtics fans to see
Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and several other new additions suit up with Paul
Pierce and company, as well as their first chance to gauge the talents of draft
picks Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph.
Join us for live updates during the game, which tips off at
2 p.m. ET.