Charlie Krumsiek ’20
The Celtics opened their season facing off against the new-look Philadelphia 76ers, with Al Horford ringing the bell to signify the new season, and were defeated in a sloppy game 107-93, typical for opening night in the NBA. This game was characterized by quick and constant foul calls and poor shooting, with freshly extended forward Jaylen Brown picking up his fifth foul in the very early third quarter. These fouls had the Celtics looking to their bench unit to produce much earlier than head coach Brad Stevens would have liked. New addition Kemba Walker and third-year forward Jayson Tatum had very poor shooting nights; Walker shot 4-18 for just twelve points, while Tatum managed an inefficient 21 on 8-22 shooting. Both good shooters throughout their careers, this is hopefully just them getting the rust off after being involved with Team USA at the FIBA World Cup Tournament into September.
Gordon Hayward, on the other hand, had a very encouraging first showing, tallying 25 points on 8-15 shooting. While plagued by their stars’ poor shooting nights and foul trouble, the Celtics were able to hang in this game until the last few minutes, where the Philadelphia defense made all the difference and Boston was unable to mount a last-minute comeback.
The Celtics home opener was against the reigning champions, the Toronto Raptors, who stand at 3-1 after their first week and look like they will be able to hang on despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard. The Cs put in another poor shooting performance, shooting 38% on the night as a team, but this game was a showing out game for the Celtics’ highly touted young duo, with Brown and Tatum leading the way with a combined 50 of the Celtics 112 points. Walker’s slow start continued but his 11 points in the fourth quarter made all the difference in this close 112-106 win.
One of the biggest takeaways from this game is what the Celtics plan to do at the center position. The three options manning the center position for now (Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, and Grant Williams) will not offer much offensively, but Boston needs them to shore up the defensive side of the ball. The team has been missing Enes Kanter due to injury, a veteran who contributes a good amount on the offensive end and the glass, but bleeds points on the defensive end, especially in pick and roll coverage.
Against Toronto, the three-pronged center committee was strong defensively, holding Marc Gasol to only one point. Grant Williams looked particularly solid on the defensive end which translated into more minutes for the next game. He looks like he will have a major impact in filling the colossal hole left in the Celtics’ defense by Al Horford’s departure.
The Celtics finished their week and went on a mini vacation until Wednesday, eventually winning in convincing fashion over the Knicks after another very slow start. After going down in the first half, the Celtics’ offense came alive led by Walker (no stranger to performing well under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden), who had his best game in green thus far with 32 points. The young starters also had another good showing, with Tatum scoring 15 to go along with 9 boards and Brown adding 19 and leading the team in plus/minus.
This game was close throughout with the Celtics only pulling away in the fourth quarter, but it did feature many of the new additions to the team in garbage time minutes, including exciting rookie center Tacko Fall. Fall immediately became a fan favorite this summer because of his immense stature, standing at 7 feet 6 inches. Carsen Edwards, Summer League phenom and Purdue product, also made his first major appearance but still appears to be finding his footing amidst NBA level defenders. The Knicks remain winless and appear to be one of the teams hurtling towards the high lottery again, but this was an encouraging game for the Celtics, with their offense finally showing some signs of explosiveness.