I skipped the Celtics’ European tour the other weekend, but caught their game against the New York Knicks on Saturday night. Being the third game of the pre-season, and against a team in their division, I figured Saturday’s game would be a great choice for my own opening night.
The Celtics took a loss–an unwelcome gift for Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce who both celebrated birthdays on Saturday–but the game was intense right from the tip off.
The Knicks started out with a six point run and out-shot the Celtics throughout the game. By halftime the Knicks had 48 field goal attempts to the Celtics’ 29. Boston managed to enter the second half with a 50-42 advantage, but only because New York’s accuracy suffered. In every other way, the Knicks outplayed the boys from Boston.
After the Celtics gave up their lead in the fourth quarter, Jared Sullinger hit the second of two free throws and sent the game into overtime with the score tied at 86. Five minutes later it was over and the Knicks won 98-95.
More important than the final score, though, is how the Celtics played as a team. After all, we’re on the other side of the Big Three Era, with a roster of rookies, aging veterans, and a forward who just had heart surgery.
So how’d they do? I’d say “mixed results” pretty much sums up Saturday’s game.
In the first half alone, the Celtics racked up seven turn overs to the Knicks’ three. They were outshot, ultimately outscored, and looked positively lethargic in the first quarter. By the end of the game, the Celtics had lost the ball 19 times, continuing their pre-season battle with turn overs.
But somewhere amid this less-than-stellar performance, two bright spots shone out.
At 35 years of age, Paul Pierce is showing all the experience of his veteran status and no signs of physical limitation. He scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds, and was +4 on the court. If there was any doubt as to his ability coming into this season, it evaporated on Saturday night.
Then there’s Jeff Green. In 2011, the then 25-year-old was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism and robbed of his 2011-2012 season before it had even begun. But if heart surgery–and the year of rehabilitation which followed–left Green’s future in question, Saturday’s game should have answered it for everyone.
Green was outstanding for every second of his 29 minutes, scoring 12 points, an assist, and four rebounds. With only one turn over to show for his efforts he was easily the star of Saturday’s show.
But where does all of this leave the Celtics? What does it mean?
Pierce and Green proved themselves critical to the Celtics efforts on Saturday, even though they came away with a loss. Jared Sullinger shows a lot of promise, scoring a team high of 14 points and seven rebounds, but his three turnovers and six personal fouls made him -3 on the floor.
In the end, I don’t think this game will mean much of anything once the official season gets rolling. Rookies are still getting their feet wet, the team’s timing still needs work, and no one, not even Doc Rivers, is sure what the final roster is going to look like on October 30.