Phil Pressey and the rest of the undrafted extras on the Celtics’ training camp roster don’t understand how this usually works.
They don’t have the prior experience to know that when their team falls behind by 23 points in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, they are supposed to just run through the motions until the buzzer sounds and everyone can go home. So when the Knicks started to run away with Wednesday’s exhibition in Providence, Pressey and company did a really strange thing.
They kept trying.
Seriously, what a bunch of weirdos. Led by Chris Babb, who scored all 12 of his points in the furious fourth quarter, the Celtics outscored the Knicks 37-24 in the final 12 minutes. Pressey’s running left-handed bank shot 22 seconds left gave the Celtics the lead momentarily, before Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. spoiled the party and hit a clutch baseline jump shot to give New York a 103-102 win.
“Coach [Brad Stevens] just told us to keep playing,” Pressey told reporters. “We just kept playing and we went on a little run, and before you knew it we were down single-digits. At the end of the day you’ve just got to play the game the right way and let the rest take care of itself.”
Lots of Celtics fans were confused when Pressey spent all of Monday’s preseason opener against the Raptors on the bench. The undrafted rookie out of Missouri is expected to be in the running for the backup point guard job — or possibly more than that if Avery Bradley proves unable to handle the duties while Rajon Rondo recovers from ACL surgery. But Jordan Crawford‘s absence to deal with a death in his family made it evident Pressey would get more burn against the Knicks.
Pressey checked in early on Wednesday and played a nearly flawless game even before the late rally. He wrapped up his night with 13 points, three rebounds and seven assists. Perhaps most importantly, he had zero turnovers, which was a concern after he freely gave away the ball in certain summer league contests.
“I was just trying to go out there and carry over what was happening in practice,” Pressey said. “Compete every day, and I really feel like Avery and Jordan and the other guys, us competing against each other, really got me ready for the game.”
One thing we hope the veterans don’t tell Pressey to do, though, is to change his approach in lopsided affairs. It’s too rare that a preseason game turns out to be the slightest bit entertaining, and we could use a few more like this one.