LAS VEGAS — The Celtics won their first Summer League game of the season Saturday, topping the Philadelphia 76ers, 96-82.
Here’s what we learned from the victory:
Robert Williams has made strides offensively.
Six pounds lighter, center Robert Williams showed flashes of improvement on the offensive end of the floor. After attempting 92.2 percent of his shots less than 10 feet from the basket last season, Williams attempted three from 18-plus feet Saturday. He missed each of them, but his willingness to take a midrange jumper is a promising development.
Williams remained most effective inside the paint, with all four of his buckets coming in the restricted area. He finished with nine points, nine rebounds, three steals, two blocks, and two assists. Williams looked comfortable handling — and dishing — the ball.
Perhaps his most impressive sequence came at the end of the first half, when he made the right read to steal the ball with six seconds remaining, crossed over into the lane, and beat two defenders to lay the ball in with one second left.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 6, 2019
For fans, Tacko Fall was the main event.
Midway through the first period, the crowd erupted when center Tacko Fall made his way over to the scorer’s table to check into the game for the first time.
“He was going in kind of smiling,” said teammate Grant Williams. “He can’t hold a smile down.”
At 7-foot-6, Fall is hard to miss — but the ensuing applause each and every time he touched the ball made his presence impossible to ignore.
When he lifted two hands in an effort to block a layup from former Celtics two-way player P.J. Dozier, fans cheered. On Philadelphia’s next possession, when Fall actually swatted a shot for his lone block of the game, cheers. When he checked back in with 6 seconds remaining in the first quarter to defend an inbound pass, cheers. When he scored his first bucket on a one-handed jam midway through the second, more cheers.
— NBA (@NBA) July 6, 2019
Fall even got “M-V-P” chants while shooting two free throws following a flagrant foul.
Fans were clearly clamoring for Fall, as “We want Tacko” and “Tac-ko, Tac-ko” chants both picked up steam at various points throughout the game.
Fall finished with six points, on 3-for-4 shooting, and four rebounds.
Grant Williams showed he can space the floor.
Williams fired off four three-point attempts, making two, which matched his career-high from his three-year tenure at Tennessee.
Leading up to the draft, there was some chatter surrounding Williams’s ability to shoot from the perimeter. But summer league coach Scott Morrison said he and coach Brad Stevens have been encouraging the 6-foot-7 forward to “let it fly.”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 6, 2019
“I think getting someone like Coach Stevens to say, ‘We want you to shoot that. We believe in you. Let it fly,’ it kind of reminds him initially that if he misses seven in a row, he should take the eighth one,” Morrison said. “If he makes seven in a row, he should take the eighth one.”
Williams acknowledged the importance of his three-point shooting, in that it helps space the floor and create for others. He said his lack of attempts from behind the arc in college were mainly due to the fact that he was surrounded by so many capable shooters.
“It wasn’t that I couldn’t shoot,” Williams said. “It was that our team had a lot of shooters around me.”
“Every free moment of a practice, we’re getting him shooting those threes,” added Morrison. “Hopefully, by the end of the week here, he’ll show up with a propensity to knock them down.”
It was a tough showing for Guerschon Yabusele.
The most experienced player on the summer league squad, forward Guerschon Yabusele, was part of the starting lineup but never seemed to find his footing Saturday.
Yabusele finished 0-for-4 from the field and was one of two players — the other being point guard Jon Elmore — to finish scoreless. His contributions outside of scoring were also few and far between, as he was a team-low minus-12.
In the third quarter, Yabusele exhibited particularly bad awareness by failing to get an attempt off with the shot clock expiring and the bench shouting, “Shoot it!”
Morrison said he would like to see the 23-year-old Frenchman “not press so much,” but he also attributed his offensive struggles to his low number of touches.
“In the second half, I tried to get him a few more looks,” Morrison said. “I feel like maybe he was pressing a little bit to make something happen on those touches because he hadn’t gotten many.”