BOSTON — Monday was the Celtics’ first official basketball game of the 2014-15 season. For the first 20 or so minutes, that’s exactly what it looked like.
The Celtics couldn’t hit a shot to save their lives early on in their preseason-opening date with the Philadelphia 76ers, missing 17 of their first 20 field goals. It looked like typical early-October basketball: lots of turnovers, fouls galore, shooting percentages in the mid-teens, etc.
Things then began to come together for the home team, though. Evan Turner — who saw time at both the one and three in place of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, respectively — took control of the offense, and Boston dominated the second half en route to a 98-78 win.
— With Rajon Rondo sidelined, all eyes were on rookie Marcus Smart, who got the starting nod at point guard in his first professional game.
Smart registered just two points in the contest on 0-for-8 shooting, but he showed impressive ball-movement skills (six assists) and came as advertised with his play in the defensive end.
“Marcus didn’t shoot it as well as Evan, but Marcus’ value and what Marcus does to affect the game is going to be hard to find on the stat sheet in a lot of games,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “I mean, he’s so, so tough defensively, and he’s one of those guys that I think will get stronger as the game goes on defensively.”
— Brandon Bass was the one Celtics player who looked truly game-ready. The forward went 3-for-5 from the floor and 9-for-10 from the charity stripe to finish with 15 points (tied with Turner for the team high) and added nine rebounds.
— Marcus Thornton appears to be the second coming of Jordan Crawford. Thornton, who came over with Tyler Zeller in a three-team trade this summer, chucked up a game-high eight 3-pointers but hit on four of them, helping energize the Celtics during their second-half surge. He has “off-the-bench sparkplug/wild card” written all over him.
— Speaking of Zeller, the former Cleveland Cavaliers big man had a brutal game, finishing with more fouls (five) than rebounds (four). He provided little resistance to Sixers players slashing through the paint, and his vaunted ability to run the floor resulted in zero points and a couple of notable blown chances.
— Kelly Olynyk did a nice job defending highly touted 76ers big man Nerlens Noel down low. Noel clearly is the more athletic of the two, but Olynyk’s strategy of making him receive the ball away from the rim helped contribute to a four-point debut for last year’s No. 6 overall draft pick.
“Just trying to play tough,” Olynyk said. “Make him shoot over you when in between him and the basket. Don’t give anything easy.”
— The Celtics’ postgame comments also revealed that Olynyk’s favorite animal “might be” a lemur (don’t ask), and that Turner was called “Turtle” as a kid because of his small head. Oh, the preseason.
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