Celtics fall to Sixers in preseason opener, 108-99
By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With just two preseason games to iron out the kinks before the start of what will be a marathon 2020-21 season, Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows his team’s best will have to provide more than they did in Tuesday’s 108-99 loss to the 76ers.
“We’re gonna need more if we’re gonna have a chance to be good,” Stevens said after the loss. “I don’t think tonight changed my opinion: We have a lot of work to do. I’ve known that since we [first] stepped on the court.”
For the Celtics, that really starts with the one-two punch of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, whose struggles dug the Celtics into a 10-point deficit at the half, and with a combined 15 points on 5-for-24 shooting by the night’s end. Brown’s struggles were especially brutal, as he converted on just one of his 11 tries, and finished with a team-worst four turnovers and minus-10.
The Celtics also struggled to provide much of a fight against the Philly bigs, as Joel Embiid scored a starter-best 18 points in 16:48, while power forward Tobias Harris totaled 16 points and nine rebounds in 25:42 of action.
Down by 17 points at one point, the Celtics’ best looks of the evening came with Jeff Teague on the floor.
Considered a potential starter in Kemba Walker’s absence, Teague welcomed himself to the Boston lineup with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, and conversions on all four of his looks from beyond the three-point line, in almost 19 minutes.
“We looked the most fluid offensively when Jeff was in the game,” Stevens noted.
“I haven’t played ball in nine months,” Teague, who split last year between the T’Wolves and Hawks and wasn’t involved in the NBA playoff bubble in Orlando, acknowledged. “I’m just blessed to be in this position. I’m here for whatever the opportunity is. As [Walker]’s out, I think we have to rely on a lot of different guys to be successful.”
It was also a solid showing from 2020 first-round picks Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard, as the duo combined for 24 points, with Pritchard scoring 16 of those points on 6-for-10 shooting with four rebounds.
“I thought they did a lot of good things,” said Stevens. “There’s a lot of film of things they can improve on, but I thought both Aaron and Payton played well.”
The Celtics will conclude their preseason slate Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden.