The Boston Celtics opened their preseason schedule against the Orlando Magic with a come-from-behind 98-97 win. As with games before the official start of the year, teams tend to try out different things and see how the game unfolds. While minutes, plays and roster movements are probably all in flux at this stage, there are also a couple of things worth noticing in the Celtics’ first game with Ime Udoka as head coach.
Udoka warned that the media should not take much out of the starting five that the Boston Celtics will be rolling out. Still, it was exciting to monitor who gets to ball first. Jaylen Brown and Jayson are guaranteed spots in the starting lineup. The other three slots comprised of Robert Williams III at center, Marcus Smart at point guard and offseason acquisition, Juancho Hernangomez holding the power forward position.
With the first game on the books, it’s time to glean what might potentially be a consistent point as the Boston Celtics start the 2021-22 NBA season in the next few weeks. Here are a few impressions after the Boston Celtics started the preseason with a win against the Orlando Magic
#3 Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith continue to thrill the Boston Celtics organization and fans
Fresh off an impressive 2021 Summer League campaign, the duo is sustaining their momentum. One of the biggest storylines for the Boston Celtics coming into the new season is how the young blood progresses in their development. If the offseason, training camp and pre-season are a sign, bigger things could come from Pritchard and Nesmith.
Payton Pritchard looks comfortable running the offense. His shooting will allow him to slide to shooting guard if Dennis Schroder or Marcus Smart quarterbacks the team. Posting him up on defense is not as easy as it looks for opposing bigs. He is a savvy and tough defender who is going to fight every inch.
Aaron Nesmith first gained minutes on the floor for the Boston Celtics last season because of his hustle and energy. Once his shooting rounded out to form, it was clear that the potential of the young forward from Vanderbilt could be really high.
More than his 2-3 shooting from beyond the arc, Nesmith’s hustle and energy stood out. A long season could really highlight Nesmith’s development, which would delight the Celtic nation to no end.
Also check out: Complete NBA Preseason TV Schedule for 2021
#2 The Boston Celtics’ starting center is anybody’s guess
The most anticipated Boston Celtics' training camp battle is still undecided. Robert Williams uncharacteristically struggled against the Orlando Magic’s frontline, which is nowhere near what the frontcourts of elite East teams bring. Mo Bamba looked like Anthony Davis, partly because of Williams’ inability to stop the former’s mid-range jumper.
One game, though, does not make a season. Williams was quick on his feet when forced on pick-and-rolls and his presence in the paint alone seemed to deter inside drives. It could just be the heightened expectations after signing a huge contract that caused a blip in his play.
Al Horford did not do significantly better, but ran the floor well and was a threat from beyond the arc. It looked like he never left the Celtics with the chemistry he displayed with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart. If Udoka chooses to let Horford come off the bench with Schroder, they could possibly be one of the best pick and roll dance partners in the league.
#1 Jaylen Brown looks great
Questions about how Jaylen Brown would recover from a wrist injury were promptly answered. Without counting the impressive first quarter, where he poured 16 points on a hapless Orlando Magic defense, Brown looked smooth, lean and quick.
JB showed no signs of hesitation. The Boston Celtics can collectively heave a sigh of relief as Brown is explosive and forceful when going to the rim. The mental aspect of recovering from a significant injury could now be something in the rearview mirror now.
Jaylen Brown led the team in scoring with 25 points, four rebounds and three assists in only 26 minutes of game time. He jelled well with whoever was on the floor with him. The Js were a wrecking ball whenever they were on the court together, which should dispel rumors about squabbling between the two All-Stars.
The Boston Celtics will need a healthy and even more athletic Brown to topple the best teams in the East.