Celtics

5 takeaways as Celtics close preseason with an odd loss to Raptors

Jayson Tatum was ejected, Grant Williams' shoe exploded, and more.

Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics dribbles the ball against Thaddeus Young of the Toronto Raptors. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Celtics dropped their second overtime loss of their preseason slate to the Raptors on Friday, falling 137-134.

Here are the takeaways.

1. Before the game, Joe Mazzulla told reporters he expected Friday’s contest to largely mirror the rotation and substitution patterns he will implement during the regular season.

Two things felt especially noteworthy in that light. First, Payton Pritchard didn’t enter the game until late in the third quarter. Pritchard looked solid in his stints during the preseason, but he remains largely a 3-point shooter with side servings of playmaking and competitive (but undersized) defense. There simply isn’t much room for him in the rotation with both Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White on the roster.

Advertisement:

Second, White started in place of Robert Williams for the fourth consecutive game, and he had his best performance of the preseason. White told reporters he spent a lot of the summer working on his 3-point shot, and the results were evident Friday — he shot 5-for-6 from 3-point range, and made all of his first five attempts. If White’s improved jumper is sustainable, it’s a huge addition for the Celtics.

2. Nothing was announced after the game, but it felt noteworthy in the battle for the final roster spots that Noah Vonleh and Justin Jackson both played while Jake Layman remained glued to the bench. Don’t be surprised — in light of Adam Himmelsbach’s report in The Boston Globe — if Jackson and Vonleh are the final two players who make the Celtics’ roster.

3. The game itself got testy. Jayson Tatum picked up a pair of technicals and was ejected. Grant Williams then picked up a technical of his own for telling an official, in his own words, to “referee the game, not your emotions.”

“JT got a tech for I guess slamming the ball,” Williams said. “He said that’s BS or something simple — something that you normally don’t get a tech for. Then, that was a tech. … I guess JT waved him off, got ejected.”

Advertisement:

More concerning for Tatum than a couple of novelty technicals was his 3-for-10 performance from 3-point range. In four preseason games, he is yet to look consistent from behind the arc.

The Celtics can probably survive a cold start from Tatum if he follows his usual trajectory (lackluster in the first half, a top-5 player league-wide in the second), but in a season with so many solid Eastern Conference teams, staying afloat early might be prove important.

4. Grant Williams broke his shoe like Zion Williamson, which might be the first and last time Grant Williams is compared to Zion Williamson.

We can laugh about it now, but the play looked a little scary in real-time. Thankfully, Williams was fine.

Williams had a cold night as well — 3-for-12 from the floor with 11 points.

5. Malcolm Brogdon sat out the second half with “a sore right leg,” according to the Celtics. That could be concerning, given that Brogdon played just 36 games last season and never topped 56 in the last three, but Joe Mazzulla told reporters Brogdon was held out for precautionary measures. Luke Kornet also received a surprising DNP despite being ready to play after recovering from a sprained ankle.

And that, folks, was your 2022-23 Celtics preseason. The real thing starts Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the 76ers.

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com