Starters Rest, Second Unit Shines As Celtics Win Preseason Opener 93-65

by

Starters Rest, Second Unit Shines As Celtics Win Preseason Opener 93-65Final: Celtics 93, Sixers 65. The Celtics finish the deal. Their preseason is underway with a resounding victory over a shorthanded Sixers team.

Ray Allen finishes with 14 points to lead the way for Boston, and two young big men come up big off the bench. Glen Davis and Semih Erden each add 13. But it's a total team effort for the C's who dominate the Sixers on both ends of the floor.

The preseason is still young, but for the Celtics, it's been a very encouraging start.

The C's have no time to rest on their laurels. They'll take the floor again Thursday night, taking on the Nets down in New Jersey.

Fourth quarter, 2:51, 89-55: Stephane Lasme has quickly overtaken Semih Erden as the favorite rookie on the C's bench. The UMass kid now has seven points, and Nate Robinson leaps out of his seat onto the floor to celebrate a three-point play here that puts the C's up 34. Perk and KG soon follow. These Celtics are in a good mood tonight.

And why wouldn't they be? They're cruising to a blowout win in front of a rousing crowd in Manchester.

Fourth quarter, 5:44, 81-53: Stephane Lasme has entered for the first time, and he makes his presence known with back-to-back baseline drives for dunks. In other words, he's already scored more NBA points than Evan Turner.

Lasme outlasted his former UMass teammate Tony Gaffney to survive the first round of cuts and make the Celtics' preseason opener. He's still a long shot to make the team, but it's definitely encouraging to see him provide a spark offensively. Lasme as a 15th man on the Celtics' roster isn't totally out of the question if he keeps working hard.

Fourth quarter, 7:07, Celtics 76-53: Von Wafer and Mario West have both checked in for the Celtics in this fourth quarter. It's a good thing, too — Doc needs to get an in-game look at the two young guards, since they're both on the bubble to make his roster.

They're two very different players. Wafer is an excellent spot-up jump shooter, while West is a different breed of wing guy, playing lock-down defense and also occasionally driving to the basket. Think of a young Tony Allen.

There's a good chance that one of the two makes the Celtics' final roster. But which one? Doc has a decision to make, so he'd better conduct some research.

Fourth quarter, 8:55, Celtics 74-49: Three Celtics are in double figures at the moment: Ray Allen leading the way with 14 points, Glen Davis at 13, and — get this. Semih Erden has 13 as well off the bench, shooting a perfect 3-of-3 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

This has been a tremendous night for the Celtics' bench, especially their bigs. On a night when Doc Rivers has let his starters sit and watch the show — Rajon Rondo has played only three minutes, and Paul Pierce just two — the second unit has shined.

The lead's down to 25, though. Hit the panic button.

End of third quarter, Celtics 70-40: Marquis Daniels finishes the quarter with a nice baseline drive for a layup, and the Celtics close out the quarter with their 30-point edge still intact. You can likely chalk this one up as a W.

Doc Rivers finally takes his first look at rookie forward Luke Harangody at the end of the third quarter, testing out a smallish lineup with Daniels and Harangody at the three and four, and Semih Erden down low. Harangody hasn't done much yet, but he looks comfortable on both ends of the floor in his NBA debut.

Still no sign of Von Wafer, Mario West or Stephane Lasme. Not sure what Doc's waiting for.

Third quarter, 3:16, Celtics 63-31: Doc continues to give his second unit an extended run. Glen Davis and Nate Robinson are really pressing offensively, trying to create shots and run up the score, but the Sixers' defense has looked a lot stronger in the second half (hence the 14-9 score so far this quarter).

Craig Brackins and Marreese Speights have looked strong defensively for Philly. They're both active bigs that can collapse on any Celtic that tries to penetrate the lane. These Sixers have the potential to be a strong team on the defensive end, but they've just been overmatched tonight.

Third quarter, 5:46, Celtics 59-29: The one bright spot in this game for Philly has been the active big man Thaddeus Young. Young's been the only Sixer thus far to show the aggression to get to the basket and score; the rest of them just look hopeless.

Young was shooting 3-of-7 at halftime. The rest of the Sixers combined were 2-of-24, or 8.3 percent. Last I checked, that was considered "not very good."

Third quarter, 8:15, Celtics 55-24: The first man off the bench for the Celtics in the second half isn't Glen Davis, it isn't Nate Robinson and it isn't Delonte West. Yep, you guessed it — it's the Turkish kid.

Doc Rivers said he would use Semih Erden a lot in this preseason, but to see Erden earn sixth-man status in his first game is huge. This guy is exceeding everyone's expectations.

Third quarter, 9:42, Celtics 55-22: The C's pick up the second half right where they left off, opening things up with a 6-0 run. Just when you thought this couldn't be more of a laugher, they pile it on a little more.

The Sixers' guards have been especially atrocious — Jodie Meeks is 0-for-3, Evan Turner is 0-for-5, and Jrue Holiday is a dismal 0-for-6.

At least one sports team from Philly is having a good night. They can't all put up gems like Roy Halladay.

Halftime, Celtics 49-22: We may be in an arena frequented by UNH athletes, and it may look like a college basketball score, but I swear this is a real NBA game. The Sixers have just 22 points at the half, and there's a multitude of reasons why.

The C's interior defense has been tremendous, with Kevin Garnett leading the way for the starting five and Semih Erden stepping up in a big way for the second unit. The Sixers can't get the ball inside to save their lives, and on the perimeter, they're just missing a lot of difficult jump shots. Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks and the heralded rookie Evan Turner have been complete no-shows for a Philly team that desperately needs some shooting help.

The outcome of this game isn't in doubt. Doc Rivers and the Celtics will likely use this second half as a chance to experiment with a few new lineups. There's not much else to see here.

Second quarter, 2:48, Celtics 40-19: Doc's Celtics are running up the score a la Bill Belichick's Patriots circa 2007. This is ugly. Ray Allen is running and gunning for 3s, the Celtics' perimeter D is humiliating the Sixers' guards, and we're looking at a 21-point game before halftime. This is out of control.

Still waiting on Doc to empty his bench and let the kids play a little. Luke Harangody, Von Wafer, Mario West and Stephane Lasme remain in their warmups for the time being. It should only be a matter of time before the C's take a look at what the youngsters can do.

Second quarter, 4:51, Celtics 31-15: The Celtics didn't bring cheerleaders with them to Manchester tonight — except for Nate Robinson, that is.

Nate has the rest of the C's bench leaping out of their seats to celebrate every big play from the rookie Erden. Erden has come up with a couple of big defensive rebounds and even a nice semi-dunk/semi-layup inside. He's still not an aggressive offensive player by NBA standards, but he sure is getting there fast. His C's teammates are loving it.

Second quarter, 6:54, Celtics 27-13: Maybe we'll have to reconsider the idea that Semih Erden's only a bench warmer on this Celtic team. He's looking better than anyone tonight.

Compared to a healthy Kendrick Perkins and the two O'Neals, Erden is probably the most agile center the Celtics have. He can adjust to the pick-and-roll way better than Shaq ever has, making him the ideal defensive big man for the Celtics' second unit. I'm not saying Doc will ever send Shaq to the end of the bench, but Erden has made a case tonight to get some more minutes for the C's moving forward.

The guy can also pass. A nice little scoop underneath to Big Baby puts the Celtics up 14. Everything's going right for the C's tonight.

Second quarter, 8:44, Celtics 23-9: Doc's getting a good, long look at his second unit. Robinson, West, Daniels, Davis and Erden are out there playing extended minutes, and the starters are happy to rest.

The second-teamers are stronger defensively than you might think. Erden is a mobile big man, providing the C's with both size down low and length to disrupt passing lanes.

The Sixers still only have nine points. Unreal.

Second quarter, 10:27, Celtics 21-9: The "Shrek and Donkey" tandem is in full force. Glen Davis and Nate Robinson have better chemistry than any two teammates in the league, and they're showing it off in style tonight.

First Big Baby tips a rebound to Nate to set off a Celtics fast break, and then one play later, a leaping Baby cuts off a Jrue Holiday pass and tips another loose ball to the speedy Robinson, giving the C's a second extra possession.

You know you're in good shape when your second unit can completely outplay an opposing starting five.

End of first quarter, Celtics 19-9: With the first quarter of the first game in the books, the C's are already looking strong this preseason. They're completely controlling the tempo of this game, running on the Sixers at will and generating offense while halting Philly's attack on the other end.

The C's only had a week to prepare with a host of fresh new faces this season, but so far, it looks like everyone's come together beautifully.

First quarter, 2:31, Celtics 15-7: Paul Pierce remains on the floor, but the four guys around him make up the bulk of Doc Rivers' second unit: It's Delonte, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson and Semih Erden surrounding the captain as we near the end of the first quarter.

It'll be good to see how this lineup functions — the conflux of the offense-first Robinson and the defensive-minded West will be an interesting storyline on the Celtics' bench this season.

First quarter, 4:20, Celtics 12-7: Delonte West makes his first appearance midway through the first quarter, receiving a warm ovation from a Celtic fan base happy to have him back.

This crowd in New Hampshire is a strong one — they may live far from the glitz of downtown Boston, but they're still dedicated fans. The C's are playing their preseason opener in front of a packed — and loud — house.

First quarter, 6:01, Celtics 12-4: It didn't take long for the defensive chops of a healthy Kevin Garnett to show. With KG active, this is a whole different team on D — communicating, rotating, making the painted area virtually impenetrable. The Sixers are left with no option but the off-balance jump shot.

First quarter, 8:02, Celtics 8-2: No surprise here — the Celtics are manhandling the Sixers early. Philly's youngsters are settling for jumpers early in the shot clock, and not connecting; the Celtics' offense is working like a charm.

The C's are moving the ball, finding lanes to drive, and getting second-chance points with ease. Inside, outside, it's all working. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo have it working early, but it's Shaq that really seems unstoppable right now. The Sixers just don't have an answer for the 7-footer.

7:35 p.m.: We're just about ready to get underway — Shaq, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are taking the floor for the Celtics.

Sixers coach Doug Collins will be shorthanded tonight — both Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand are sitting this one out. Expect the C's to have a big advantage early.

6:45 p.m.: Welcome to Manchester, N.H., where Doc Rivers was asked before tipoff of Wednesday's game what his goals were, and he answered with brutal honesty.

"Health," the Celtics coach answered.

"That's a joke," he said, "but it's true." The Celtics have already run into a few stumbling blocks this fall with Avery Bradley sidelined, Delonte West suffering back spasms, and Jermaine O'Neal nursing a sore hamstring. They're just looking to make it through these next two weeks with life and limb intact.

Rivers confirmed that O'Neal will indeed be out for both Wednesday's game and Thursday's away tilt with the Nets. The other O'Neal, the 38-year-old Shaquille, will start in his place. Tipoff is coming up shortly — stay tuned.

2:30 p.m.: If the Celtics are looking for a little extra bulletin board material tonight as they begin their season, this might work: Only one GM is picking them to win the Finals in June.

The results of the NBA's annual survey of general managers were released today, and 63.0 percent of those polled are picking the L.A. Lakers to repeat as NBA champions, versus only 33.3 percent siding with the Miami Heat. As for the C's, they're bringing up the rear — 3.7 percent. Also known as one vote.

The Celtics got some love elsewhere, at least — they were unanimously chosen to win the Atlantic Division, and their 18.5 percent share in the Eastern Conference race is second only to the Heat. Rajon Rondo was also chosen as the game's best defender both on the ball and in passing lanes.

But only one nod to win the Finals? That's what it's all about. And the C's probably can't help but be a little miffed.

10:30 a.m.: Doc Rivers has said this week that his Celtics need to "see someone else." They've had a rigorous week of scrimmaging against their own, both at their Rhode Island training camp and back home at their practice gym in Waltham, but there's no replacement for in-game action against the opposition.

They'll get their first taste Wednesday. The C's are headed to Manchester, N.H., for a 7:30 tipoff to their preseason opener, taking on a young Philadelphia 76ers team at Verizon Wireless Arena.

The C's have no expectations — not for Wednesday night, not for their preseason schedule at large. Win or lose, the goal is to test out lineups and work on building team chemistry.

And ultimately, it's about building toward the games that really count. Those are now less than three weeks away.

Previous Article

Maurice Clarett Glad to Be Taking Professional Football Day by Day in Omaha

Next Article

Carlos Pena, Scott Downs Among Potential Free Agents Red Sox May Target

Picked For You