PROVIDENCE — The Celtics dropped their second game of preseason here Wednesday night, falling 103-102 to the New York Knicks before a packed house at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. For more on the game, check out our story in Thursday’s Globe.
That said, here are five takeaways you can enjoy with your morning coffee.
1. Vitor Faverani will be a cult hero among Celtics fans. It’s going to happen, if it hasn’t already. There are multiple factors to consider here: the first is his awesome and marketable nickname — “El Hombre Indestructible” (The Indestructible Man); but the second, and most important, is his style of play, namely that the raw, 25-year-old Brazilian rookie center is physical and, as he showed against the Knicks, quite fearless.
Here are a couple of his dunks, both of which brought his teammates on the Celtics bench to their feet and underscore my aforementioned point about being fearless. He also hit a step-back 3-pointer on the right wing with a defender in his face in the first half (another fearless move) and added another dunk late in the second half when the Celtics were on the comeback. All in all, Faverani finished with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds in 20 minutes.
“Vitor is a good player,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after. “He’s got good feel. You can run a lot of stuff for him; he’s a better shooter than he’s shooting it right now. I think he’s got a pretty good ceiling and he is THE guy on our roster that is a true center, per se. He’s a guy that has to play, I think as we move forward.”
Stevens added of Faverani, “He is getting better every single day. Did I think he’d be able to do this on Day 1 in Newport? No. So that’s good, because we’re only 8 or 9 days away from that. He’s getting more comfortable. He’s still got a little bit of a language barrier. But he runs what we want to run out of the timeouts, he doesn’t have any problem translating anything we’re trying to do on the court.”
Ah, yes, the language barrier. Don’t expect too many eloquent Faverani quotes early on. Here’s one from after the game, though, in response to a question about his dunks and the reaction they brought from the crowd: “I’m very, very happy, because the dunks can help my teammates, I can show the coach I can play in the NBA,” he said. “I’m very happy.”
2. Phil Pressey made his NBA debut, notching a team-high 13 points, a game-high 7 assists and, more important, zero turnovers in a game-high 28 minutes. Though undersized at 5-foot-11, the undrafted free agent point guard out of Missouri was no doubt solid for the Celtics, who signed him to a multi-year deal this offseason. Pressey found a balance between managing the offense and taking what was there for him offensively; he hit four of his five shots and knocked down five of his six free-throw attempts.
Pressey was also the floor general when the Celtics made their big fourth-quarter comeback, and though it’s only preseason, he kept his cool as the game got tighter down the stretch, even hitting a couple left-handed layups in traffic to help trim the Knicks’ lead.
As Pressey, the son of former Celtics assistant coach Paul Pressey, is the only true point guard on the Celtics’ roster, his performance should make the Celtics feel a little better about their options at that position while Rajon Rondo (knee) is sidelined.
“Phil’s going to find time if he keeps doing what he’s doing,” Stevens said. “Now, the challenge is is responding to a night where you have a little success, and then responding the nights where you don’t. And just maintaining an even-ness about you. The one thing about Phil is Phil gets in the gym, you [media] have all been around, and he doesn’t leave the gym early. And he’s a guy that can make plays for other people and he made us better [Wednesday].”
Stevens added, “His speed is obviously really good. He’s a hard guy to keep in front. You think you’ve got him stopped and he can just kind of snake by you. But, again, we weren’t perfect but I thought he did some good things.”
Said Pressey: “At the end of the day you just gotta play the game the right way and let the rest take care of itself.”
3. Let’s just remember going forward that the Celtics are a rebuilding team that’s in the preseason, so everything must be taken with a hill of salt. In fact, I think I may paste this line into most of my takeaway posts for the foreseeable future.
On that note, let’s wildly overreact to the fact that the Celtics fell behind by 23 points in the fourth quarter and then came back to re-take the lead in the final seconds.
It’s hard to draw too many iron-clad conclusions from that situation, though. They’re bringing new guys in and out and, of course, the training camp invitees are going to play their hearts out because they’re trying to woo the Celtics brass to earn a spot on the roster.
Still, it was impressive that invitee Chris Babb could come out and hit 4-of-5 from 3-point range to lead the comeback, just as it was impressive how spirited the Celtics played during that stretch.
“I just told the guys in the locker room that, ‘That’s the way you’re supposed to play in basketball regardless of the outcome at the end of that game,’ Stevens said. “That was fun to be a part of. That’s the way that we need to play. I thought we competed awfully hard at times. And at times I thought they were better than us. And so we need to get better. I mean, we’ve got to be more consistent through 48 minutes and that’s what the preseason’s for.”
The fourth-quarter was also valuable in terms of being a practice for late-game situations.
“Very helpful, just because it’s another game to get used to this,” Stevens said. “And advancing the ball…I think in the big picture we had a lot of things that happened in that last minute, good and bad, that we can learn from on film. So it’s all positive other than the fact that we came up a point short.”
4. The Knicks gave Avery Bradley all kinds of trouble in last season’s playoffs as the natural shooting guard struggled filling in at the point guard spot in the absence of Rondo. It looked like, early on, that would be the case again Wednesday, as Knicks guards Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni were again hassling Bradley, who scored just 2 points in the first half. For the record, Bradley started to find his way a little bit in the second half, and he scored 10 points in the third quarter alone, hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
Bradley has said that the Celtics’ offense won’t rely on on just him bringing the ball up the court to initiate an offense, and if so that should help him as he adjusts to this role. But while he adjusts, teams may throw pesky defenders at him to really test him out, especially after seeing him struggle against the Knicks, and that could be an issue for the Celtics.
5. After being out-rebounded by 20 in their first preseason game, the Celtics out-rebounded the Knicks, 36-34. Stevens had said before that the Celtics needed to rebound much more by committee, and we saw that, and that they needed to pursue the ball more rather than just focusing on only blocking their man out.
“We’re just going to have to hone in on it,” Stevens said. “I thought our guards pursued the ball better. I thought our bigs found bodies better. The other day we just turned and hoped it bounced to us. It’s funny how that works. It usually doesn’t bounce to you when you do that. We needed to do a better job of finding bodies. We did that, but we still have a long way to go.”
Leftovers: Jared Sullinger thought his energy in preseason game No. 1 was mostly from adrenaline, as the forward is, after all, still out of shape. He didn’t look too bad Wednesday, though he only played 16 minutes. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles more playing time…Brandon Bass is sometimes (or often) called “No Pass Bass” because (you guessed it) he doesn’t pass once he gets the ball. But the Celtics forward had a career-high five assists against the Knicks, underscoring just how pass-focused this Celtics will be in Stevens’ new system. After all, they had 25 assists on 33 made field goals in their first preseason game and then had 28 on 40 made field goals in their second. Those aren’t shabby figures.
Lastly, a shout-out to Small Point Cafe in Providence. As a coffee addict, I endorse this joint, as it serves a solid cup of Joe and offers a chill atmosphere on the inside. Also, 121 Local is a solid spot for a pre-game bite before heading over to Dunkin’ Donuts Center.