Although the Celtics European trip will last another couple days, they wrapped up their overseas exhibition schedule today with a 105-75 win in Milan, Italy.
As is always the case, there were some useful nuggets to be taken out of this preseason affair, so let’s take a look at some of the main storylines and what they mean (if anything) moving forward.
Rajon Rondo was perfect early: No really, he was. 17 points in the first quarter on 7-of-7 shooting. These weren’t all layups either as the All-Star point guard was pulling up confidently early and often with deep jumpers from beyond the elbows to punish a Armani squad that was going under his picks. Plenty of aggressiveness early in these two contests on the offensive end, which is the kind of aggressiveness Doc Rivers would love to see moving forward as Rondo makes use of his improved supporting cast.
Jared Sullinger and Jason Terry started: Mere experimentation by Doc or something more? With just two preseason games under their built, it’s far too early to tell. However, it’s easy to see the logic behind shifting either guy in the starting five. We’ve yet to see Sullinger face off with legitimate NBA competition but he can perform a role that the C’s haven’t had in years up front amongst the starting five (an active offensive rebounder who can finish).
The former Ohio State star finished nine points and seven rebounds (three offensive) this afternoon. While Sullinger’s size may be a flaw, Garnett’s presence on the floor can help hide his defensive limitations. Again, it’s early and I certainly don’t expect to see Sullinger work his way into the starting five anytime soon, but it’s fun to see Doc tinkering with an idea that could have quite some good karma with it.
As for Terry, he’s the guy that will more often than not be sharing the floor with the starters in the final five minutes of most close games. Since the starters aren’t playing extended minutes now, it made since for him to get some run with Rondo, Pierce and company to continuing improving that chemistry and he did not disappoint with 11 points, three assists and a couple heads up steals for good measure.
Darko continues to contribute: Chris Wilcox’s back injury has given the former second overall pick an opening for big-time minutes early in the preseason here and Darko continues to pleasantly surprise the Boston faithful with his rebounding and passing acumen. He’s always been a strong shot blocker for the majority of his NBA career so that’s no surprise, but his contributions in other parts of the box score (9 rebounds, 3 assists) in addition to the blocks (4) make his regular insertion into the rotation right out of the preseason a distinct possibility. The next step though is continuing the progress against stiffer competition this week back in the States.
A bench that can score: Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, and Jeff Green combine for 39 points on 14-of-19 shooting, all while creating plenty of these scoring chances for themselves in the half court? An unfamiliar and welcome sight for this squad.
The Celtics return back to Boston on Wednesday from Italy, and have a full five days off before their next preseason tilt in Hartford against the Knicks on Saturday night.