Jared Sullinger misfired on a deep 3-pointer as time expired, as the Celtics dropped their third consecutive game of the preseason by falling to the Toronto Raptors by a score of 92-89 at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine. The rematch between the teams was a shift from last Friday’s high scoring affair, as both squads struggled mightily on the offensive end. In the end, the Celtics couldn’t recover from multiple double-digit deficits, thanks in large point to their ugly 41 percent shooting mark from the field.
A late 9-1 Celtics run over the game’s final two minutes made things interesting, capped by Avery Bradley drilling a game-tying jumper with 13 seconds remaining. In the end it wasn’t enough though, as Lou Williams answered with a game-winning 3-pointer at the top of the arc for Toronto with less than a second remaining, before Sullinger’s miss.
Despite the setback, there were plenty of interesting takeaways from the contest, as Celtics fans got their first look at Jeff Green (nine points in 31 minutes) in game action this preseason. Let’s take a look at what else we learned Wednesday night.
1.Evan Turner strengthened his case to be the Celtics starting point guard with Rajon Rondo sidelined (before getting ejected).
After watching plenty of strong play over the first few games when Turner played the point, Brad Stevens made the decision to bump Marcus Smart out of the starting lineup and hand Turner the reins at point guard upon Green’s return to the lineup.
The move paid dividends, as even though Boston’s offense struggled on the night as a whole, Turner’s play was not the reason. The fifth-year pro continuously set up his teammates with open jumpers out of the pick-and-roll and did a little bit of everything by posting 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists in an abbreviated 27 minutes over the first three quarters.
Turner’s night ended a bit prematurely however as we saw a bit of a temper emerge from the newcomer. The guard was handed consecutive technical fouls late in the third quarter that resulted in his ejection.
The first one came after he mouthed off to a referee after a no-call on the defensive end. After that technical, Turner lightly tossed the ball back to the official, who was looking towards the scorer’s table and not at the guard. The ball bounced multiple times before hitting the ref in the leg, but despite what appeared to be an innocent toss, it was still enough to earn Turner an early trip to the showers.
Rajon Rondo watched the incident from the Celtics bench knowing he could probably give Turner a lesson about not throwing a ball at an official postgame. Rondo earned a two-game suspension for a much harder toss back in 2012. Turner is unlikely to receive any punishment for his ill-advised pass.
2. Tyler Zeller showed that the can thrive in pick-and-roll situations and maybe be a rim protector as well?
After a rough start to the preseason, Zeller finally looked comfortable on both ends of the floor for the Celtics Wednesday night. The big man teamed up with Turner on pick-and-rolls several times and took advantage of all the dishes the point guard sent his way to the tune of 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting.
Zeller showed a nice quick release on an assortment of shots in the paint on these hookups.
As an added bonus, Zeller posted three blocks on the defensive end, strengthening his case to see some added minutes at the center spot on a team desperately in need of a reliable rim protector.
3. Brad Stevens may have found a couple intriguing lineup combinations.
The Celtics have a boatload of depth at several positions on the court, which has given Stevens the opportunity to mix and match with multiple lineups this preseason. Against the Raptors, the Celtics went with a big lineup for one of the first times this preseason by having Kelly Olynyk and Zeller share the frontcourt together for extended minutes.
The look served the Celtics well against a bigger team like Toronto, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Boston was able to defend the paint better with the two seven-footers teaming up. It’s still early, but look for more of this duo, along with Turner at point as the preseason continues.
The Celtics return to action Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers at 7 p.m. ET.