The Celtics rested their top six players on Monday, and while Payton Pritchard and the reserves showed some fun flashes, they fell 114-107 to the Knicks in their second preseason tune-up.
Here are the takeaways.
1. Why on earth did the Celtics have back-to-back games in the preseason? And why are they playing three games in four nights … followed by six days off before their final two preseason games? These contests are an opportunity to get a look at players who will be low in the rotation, but the Celtics could also use a chance to build some chemistry with the new players who will actually play.
It’s just difficult to believe that whoever designs the preseason schedule couldn’t have figured out a way to avoid a three-games-in-four-nights stretch. Save that kind of thing for the regular season (or better yet, reduce the number of regular-season games until you can eliminate 3-in-4 stretches completely).
2. Payton Pritchard was excellent once again, pouring in 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting. At his best, Pritchard brings a shocking amount of shot creation — he’s very crafty and quick with his handle, he can get seemingly wherever he wants on the floor at any given time, and he even worked his way to the hoop and snuck in a layup under Jericho Sims’s outstretched arms in the second half, flexing with a smirk as he ran back up the floor.
But Pritchard’s primary contribution, of course, is his ability to bomb away from deep.
Pritchard’s ability to affect the game positively when he doesn’t have the ultimate green light might ultimately determine how useful he is off the bench for the Celtics this season – spot-up shooting will probably be the bulk of his offensive responsibility – but he’s clearly a solid player who deserves the opportunity in front of him this year.
3. After going 0-for-6 from 3-point range (and from the floor overall) in the preseason opener on Sunday, Sam Hauser went 2-for-9 from 3-point range (and from the floor overall) on Monday – a discouraging start for the sharpshooter.
Obviously, we won’t overreact to preseason shooting totals, but the types of looks Hauser has gotten thus far might be one of the few things that actually could translate from the preseason to the regular season. Hauser was streaky last year – his unbelievably hot start was quietly a major contributor to the team’s hot start, and when he cooled off, the Celtics needed to rework their rotation a bit.
When Hauser is hitting shots, the full-strength Celtics are a nightmare — he’s good at floating to open space while the play develops, and his teammates understand the value of his long-range shooting. But more pressure is on Hauser to be good this year – the Celtics actually need him to be a major contributor on the wing behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They can’t comfortably afford to watch him work through extensive cold streaks.
4. Could Svi Mykhailiuk steal some of Hauser’s minutes? Mykhailiuk – who scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half – has been an inconsistent shooter historically, but his opportunities in Boston will be some of the best of his career, and he’s much more dynamic off the dribble.
Again, though, Hauser’s 3-point shooter is a separator – not just between himself and teammates competing for rotation slots, but also between the Celtics and other teams when he really gets going. The expectation here is that the backup wing minutes are Hauser’s to lose.
5. Rookie wing Jordan Walsh made his preseason debut on Monday and showed a little bit of what so thoroughly excited observers during the Las Vegas Summer League. He’s a pest defensively who moves his feet well, refuses to give up on plays, and utilizes his length to his advantage. With 7:49 remaining in the second quarter, he made his best play of the evening (and his first bucket of the preseason) when he stripped Julius Randle and dribbled the length of the floor for a layup.
Walsh has a ways to go before he’s ready for NBA rotation minutes. He traveled twice trying to attack closeouts, missed his first 3-point attempt badly, and fired up a bad attempt with the game still somewhat in reach down the line.
It is, of course, completely fine and normal for a 19-year-old to look out of his depth in his first NBA preseason game. The little flashes Walsh showed were more than enough to remain optimistic about his potential.
6. Dalano Banton (presumably) remains on the outside looking in at the Celtics’ rotation, but he scored 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting on Monday despite going 0-for-5 from 3-point range. At 6-foot-7, Banton’s ability to get where he wants on the floor and finish in the paint is a valuable asset that helped the Celtics collapse the Knicks’ defense.
Banton has always struggled to shoot from deep, which is too bad – with his skill set and height, a 3-point shot would make him a rotation player at worst with a much higher ceiling.
7. The Celtics have two players on their preseason roster who attended prep schools in Western Massachusetts – Banton, who played at both the MacDuffie School in Granby and Redemption Christian Academy in Northfield, and Wenyen Gabriel, who played for Wilbraham & Monson Academy before committing to Kentucky.
The Celtics will take on the Sixers in Philadelphia on Wednesday, because why would the weary need any rest in the preseason? Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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