The Boston Celtics only played two games in the second week of the preseason on back-to-back nights. It was a relatively quiet week for them where there were more practices scheduled than actual games, but it’s not a bad thing to have as many practices as possible before the regular season kicks off on October 29th. The Celtics had a tough, but productive week of getting all of the players’ roles solidified for the upcoming season. The first game was a trip up to Portland, Maine where the Celtics lost to the Toronto Raptors 92-89 on a last second shot by Lou Williams. The following night was a quick flight to Philadelphia and the Celtics rebounded nicely with a 111-91 pounding of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics are starting to look like they are in regular season form just in time and let’s take a glance at how productive they were this past week.
After a slow start in the first week of the preseason, Tyler Zeller really stepped up and performed well in both games this past week. Zeller averaged 13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2 blocks per game this week. On a side note, Zeller was 12-15 shooting from the floor. Zeller may not be the dominant center that everybody was hoping for, but he is a true 7-footer that will see a lot of time on the floor as he takes advantage of every opportunity that he is given. Defensively, Zeller is turning in the best shot blocker on the Celtics and it really showed in the game against the Raptors. I wrote a recent story about Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk granted starting roles for the Celtics, but Zeller will have a very important role himself as he will be the first big man off the bench and will be held responsible for protecting the rim and denying penetration. Zeller may not be the first option as a starter, but it will be really hard for Brad Stevens not to give him extra minutes with his recent play.
A lot of people have told me that it’s “just preseason,” but the way the Celtics have played defense this week has been a lot of fun to watch and gives us hope for the season ahead. The Celtics held the Raptors to a 42.5 shooting percentage and the 76ers to a 40 shooting percentage, while not giving up more than 92 points in each of the contests. As I stated previously, Tyler Zeller may be the best defensive big man on the Celtics, but the wings and the guard have done a tremendous job of keeping the opposition from getting into the post. The Celtics have forced an average of 19 turnovers in both contests. They have made some sacrifices in not crashing the boards on missed shots by hustling back on defense, but that can make a huge difference in making a stop or giving up easy baskets in transition. If the Celtics are going to be successful this season, they will have to continue to play great defense and I have confidence that they can become a top-10 defensive team at the end of the season.
It was a short week last week for the Celtics in the preseason and have one more week remaining before the regular season starts. The Celtics will be facing the Brooklyn Nets 3 times in 10 days and I won’t get tired of playing them if we beat them in all 3 meetings. Last week and last chance to fix any other issues before the games make a difference between playoffs and lottery.