Orlando, FL – The Celtics kicked off their summer league action on Saturday with a 85-77 win over the Miami Heat. Getting a win is always a plus, but it is also not particularly meaningful in summer league action. The goal for Celtics fans watching the action should be finding out more about the play and development of the team’s young roster. With that in mind, let’s break down a few meaningful takeaways we saw during Saturday’s win.
Marcus Smart’s Defense is NBA Ready
It’s hard for NBA rookies to live up to countless months of hype, but in the case of Marcus Smart’s defense, his play came as advertised. Savvy, physical, and aggressive were all accurate ways to describe Smart’s defensive effort on Day 1 as he matched up with Heat players at a number of different positions.
The 20-year-old’s game-high five steals set the tone for a tenacious Celtics defense that forced the Heat to commit 25 turnovers in the contest.
“[Smart] had some great help defensive plays you wouldn’t expect a 20-year-old to be able to do,” summer head coach Jay Larranaga said after the game. “He has a really good idea of team basketball, which is really exciting for us.”
Larranaga and the rest of Boston’s coaching staff should be thrilled about the prospect of shutting down backcourts around the league with a tandem of Smart and Avery Bradley next season.
Kelly Olynyk Loves Playing in Orlando
Last summer, Kelly Olynyk drew accolades around the league for showing off a versatile offensive game during a week of summer league action. On Saturday, Olynyk picked up where he left last summer by excelling as the Celtics’ primary offensive option. His efficient scoring (20 points on 8-of-17 shooting) keyed a second half comeback by Boston, but his impact went beyond the box score, according to Larranga.
“Kelly did a lot of the same things we saw him do during the regular season,” Larranaga said. He’s smart and unselfish. I think our management did a great job of getting guys that understand team basketball and really care about winning, even though it’s a summer league situation. Kelly showed great leadership in that. He’s a returning player, a first round pick and he’s not hunting shots, he’s just wants to play good team basketball. The other guys fall in line really quick.”
Non-Roster Players Make An Impact
The Celtics have one of the more talented rosters in Orlando, with four players already under contract and two rookies in Smart and James Young set to sign with the team this week. That depth makes it tough for non-roster players to make an impact but two guys found a way to overcome that obstacle on Saturday.
Undrafted rookie power forward Mike Moser (17 points, three rebounds, three assists), and Latvian guard Darius Bertrans (11 points, three rebounds, three assists) both excelled during limited playing time and experienced roster players like Chris Johnson and Chris Babb on the day. Moser’s stellar effort even earned himself some crunch time minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on both players to see if they remain consistent throughout the week.
Pressey-Smart Backcourt A Work in Progress
The Celtics started the pair of point guards together on Saturday, with Smart playing off the ball for the majority of the time Pressey was on the floor. It’s an arrangement that both players will have to get used to this week, according to Larranga:
“There is an adjustment for [Marcus] and Phil since they are both point guards. Even though they are both really smart and really good ballhandlers, it’s not always easy to play off another point guard when you are used to having the ball in your hands. That will be an adjustment for them, I thought they both did a great job with it,” Larranaga said.
Smart’s comfort level playing both spots in the backcourt will be key moving forward if the team plans to team him up with Bradley and Rajon Rondo in the backcourt.
The Celtics are off today but return to action Monday afternoon against the Indiana Pacers at 3 p.m. ET.