Celtics

5 takeaways as Aaron Nesmith explodes in comfortable Celtics Summer League win

Romeo Langford
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 10: Romeo Langford #9 of the Boston Celtics dunks against Davon Reed #34 of the Denver Nuggets during the 2021 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Celtics improved to 2-0 at the Las Vegas Summer League on Tuesday behind a huge performance by Aaron Nesmith, as the Celtics claimed a 107-82 win over the Nuggets.

Here are the takeaways.

1. Nesmith caused some mild consternation among Celtics fans with a 1-for-8 performance from behind the 3-point line in his Summer League opener, but he roared back with seven triples in nine attempts on Tuesday, tallying 33 points on 18 shots.

Asked about his struggles, Nesmith said he was upset about his performance, but he stuck to his routine.

“In the gym yesterday I made sure I went through the same routine,” Nesmith said. “Changed nothing, kept the same confidence, put it into my shot, and just shot it the way I know I could and can every day.”

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Interestingly, not all of Nesmith’s shots were spot-up 3-pointers.

In college, Nesmith was a knock-down jump shooter, but he scored in a variety of ways and was particularly good off movement — curling around screens and fading from side to side to catch his defender napping. He can square his body quickly, which bodes well if he improves his handle.

After Nesmith shot 52 percent from deep in his sophomore college season, NBA defenses knew to close out. In response, Nesmith said he is working on scoring in a variety of ways.

“I’m working on a bunch of shots that I saw last season that I wasn’t able to make,” he said. “So a lot of them are contested shots. Coming into the NBA, I’m labeled as a shooter, so a lot of people are going to try to run me off the line. So I’m working on ways to create better looks for myself, find little pockets so I can get the ball off, working on my release time, and shooting over people.”

2. After making seven 3-pointers in the Summer League opener, Payton Pritchard spent much of Tuesday’s game distributing — he finished with 12 assists to go with 21 points and eight rebounds.

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Like we said Sunday, don’t be surprised if Pritchard doesn’t finish the Summer League session. He doesn’t appear to need it.

“One thing we talked about was he’s learned to manage the game, now he has to manage his teammates, and make sure he makes them better on every possession,” Celtics Summer League coach Joe Mazzulla said. “And I thought he did that today.”

3. Newcomer Bruno Fernando endeared himself to Celtics fans almost immediately in his postgame press conference when asked about his favorite Celtic of all time.

“That’s a no-brainer: Kevin Garnett,” Fernando said. “That’s my favorite player of all time. I always looked up to him.

“I remember my days of high school, my days of college, just watching a lot of his highlights. I remember I had one time I went to LA and worked out during my freshman year and I really wanted to meet him. I was working out with Rasheed Wallace and I know that’s a close friend of his. I really wanted to meet KG but I didn’t get a chance to do so.”

Fernando — who was part of the trade that shipped out Tristan Thompson and brought back Kris Dunn — made his Celtics debut with the Summer League squad on Tuesday.

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“I always want to play,” Fernando said. “I even said that on the bench: You only get to play the game of basketball for so long so any opportunity you get to play the game of basketball, you definitely take it.”

Fernando is an important addition for two reasons. First, the Celtics get a closer look at the lanky, energetic big man. Second, the Summer League guards and wings could use a player who replicates what a true NBA big man can do.

“He brought great energy as the anchor of our defense, he communicates well, and he was a physical presence in the paint,” Mazzulla said. “So I think in a game like this, in his first game back, he had a positive influence on our guys.”

4. In the first half, Fernando assisted on a ferocious dunk by Romeo Langford — the type of finish Langford hasn’t really shown since high school.

Here’s a look.

Fernando loved it.

“It was fantastic,” Fernando said. “It was a great dunk. I told him in the locker room I was just happy he was able to get me an assist.

“But I was more so happy than anything about the dunk. We needed that to spark the energy at that point in the game and he came with a big play that did that for us and I reacted and was happy about it.”

Langford finished with eight points on 2-for-4 shooting.

5. Yam Madar was pesky again on the defensive end, but he struggled to stay in front of opposing guards and was 0-for-3 from the field.

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“He just has to be solid,” Mazzulla said. “It’s hard. It’s a fine line. When you ask people to pressure the ball, when you ask them to get into the ball and pick the ball up high, there’s obviously more space on the floor for the ball handler to attack. So just finding that balance and pressuring the ball, but staying solid and not reaching and keeping his man in front.

“When he’s solid, he’s a very good on-ball defender.”

The Celtics play again Thursday at 7 p.m. EST.

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