BOSTON — Well, that certainly was entertaining.
The Celtics opened the regular season in impressive fashion Wednesday night, dismantling the Brooklyn Nets en route to a dominant 121-106 win at TD Garden.
— Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who missed the entire preseason with a broken hand, was the story of the game. Head coach Brad Stevens said afterward that Rondo “looks like himself” on the court, which is high praise.
— The Celtics displayed tremendous offensive balance in the win. Of the 10 players who saw action, eight finished with double-digit point totals. Boston’s bench of Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Marcus Thornton, Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller was especially productive, shooting a combined 57.6 percent from the floor (19 for 33).
Stevens said that’s the way it’ll have to be if the team hopes to have success this season.
“It didn’t surprise me a ton, because those guys are good players, and we don’t — hey, if our starters don’t have it, then we’re going to go quickly to the bench,” Stevens said. “And that’s the kind of team that we’re going to be, and we’re just going to play with great depth and hopefully great energy.”
Rondo concurred with his coach, saying the Celtics are “a tough team to scout when you have six or seven guys in double figures.”
— Smart came exactly as advertised in his first legitimate NBA game. The rookie came up with steals on consecutive possessions in the second quarter and later picked the pocket of Nets point guard Deron Williams — the All-Star’s only turnover in the game.
That tenacity earned Smart the respect of Kevin Garnett, who was greeted with raucous applause in his latest return to Boston.
“The kid’s very impressive,” the former Celtic said. “This is my first time seeing him live, playing against him and stuff. He and Rondo and Avery (Bradley), that’s going to be a tandem. I cant wait to watch some of their games. They played great (Wednesday). They seem to have a nice chemistry together. Hopefully, they can be consistent with that.”
“That in itself speaks volumes,” Smart said of Garnett’s compliments. “That’s an honor coming from KG, very well-known here and in the league.”
— Stevens on one occasion had Rondo, Bradley and Smart on the court together, forming a guard-heavy lineup that was effective at pressuring the ball-handler but often left Nets shooters open around the perimeter. It’s a work in progress, but Rondo, the elder statesman of the group, said he loves playing alongside the two “young pit bulls.”
“They’re younger, and they make it easier for me,” Rondo said with a smile. “When I get tired, I just put them on the ball. They did a better job than me on the ball. Anytime you can rotate guys, you can wear guys down, because the way we play, we pick up a little bit. It’s tough when you have three different guys that have energy.
— Garnett was involved in a bit of a dust-up with Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk late in the fourth quarter.
Olynyk had set a hard screen on Brooklyn’s Alan Anderson, prompting Garnett to get in the young Celtic’s face. The two quickly were separated, and KG was hit with a technical foul.
“It was just the heat of the game, heat of the battle,” Olynyk said. “He’s a high-energy, high-emotion guy. When teams are losing, they’ve got to stir something up.”
Olynyk scored a team-high 19 points, including a baseline jumper as time expired in the third quarter to push the Celtics past the 100-point plateau.
Photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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