With hybrid rules in play, the 2015-2016 Boston Celtics made their pre-season debut in Milan against Olympio Milano. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 18 points, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger had 14 apiece, and Marcus Smart added 11 for the Celtics, who led 61-44 at the half and coasted to a 124-91 win. David Lee filled up his stat sheet with 13 points and 7 rebounds. The Celtics were in complete control, and moved the ball very well to the tune of 31 assists. The team had 15 steals, forcing 19 turnovers and turning in a nice defensive effort.
Brad Stevens has said not to pay attention to the starting lineups, but it was interesting to see Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee, and Tyler Zeller trot out as a starting five. The Lee/Zeller combo was an intrguing pair to see at the 4/5, they were both active early and the offense seemed to be running through the bigs to start out. Bradley knocking down his first three point attempt of the year was encouraging, as was Smart sealing his defender in the post and backing in for an easy two. Predictably, Isaiah Thomas was first off the bench for the Celtics and he immediately went to the line for three free throws. The little guy can get to the line, and I love that about him. Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk were the next two bigs to enter the game, and when it came time to relieve Jae Crowder, it was Jonas Jerebko who took over at the three. RJ Hunter was the first rookie to check in, he drilled a corner three on his first attempt from the field and I fist pumped. The best plays of the first quarter both involved Kelly Olynyk, one a dribble move where he broke some poor Italian guy's ankles and the other a sweet back door lob he threw to a streaking Amir Johnson. Jared Sullinger did not play in the first quarter. Celtics were in control after one with a 34-20 lead after shooting 67%.
The second quarter started with a super fun looking small ball lineup of Thomas, Smart, Hunter, Jerebko, and Johnson. Amir Johnson had a nice defensive possession where he disrupted multiple attempts and then corralled the rebound. Jared Sullinger made his debut two minutes into the frame and Terry Rozier followed him in thirty seconds later. Sullinger does not look significantly slimmer or quicker, and he had an up and down quarter: he hit a few shots early, then had a turnover and a badly short three, then caught a pretty feed from Lee for two down low, hustled for an offensive rebound and kicked it out for a Bradley three, and getting an easy two off a made basket. Smart looked great going to the hoop after Crowder forced a turnover, Bradley shot the ball well, and Lee showed off his point forward skills by continually moving the ball and even bringing the ball up off a rebound. Thomas stepped into a DEEP three on a second chance opportunity and paced the Celtics with with 12 first half points. Bradley made 3-3 from the three point line. Is Bradley the knock down shooter that the Celtics' first unit so desperately needs? The Celtics were in control at the half, and went into the break up 61-44. Young, Mickey, Jones were healthy first half scratches, with Turner out.
The Celtics brought the starters back out to begin the second half. David Lee stopped a 9-0 run with a three point play, gunned a pass to Zeller down low to get his front court mate to the line, had a steal and started the break that led to a Zeller lay in, next he hit a jumper, and after that he snatched a rebound and made a beautiful outlet pass to send Bradley to the line for two. Basically, David Lee is doing work. He had a huge impact on this game. Bradley hits another three and the NBA TV announcer just mentioned to me that all of Bradley's points have come at the free throw line or three point line, which does not seem like an accident. Smart buried a three to stretch the lead to 89-65 with about 4 minutes to go in the third. Jerebko hit back to back runners, and Smart had another steal and coasted for a lay in to expand the lead to 95-69 and bring out some Italian boo birds. The Celtics are a lot better than the home team. The ball didn't touch the floor during a pretty fast break starting with an Amir Johnson outlet to Thomas to Olynyk for two. Twenty six assists for the Celtics after three has to have Brad Stevens pleased. They led 99-71 heading into the fourth.
Rozier, Hunter, Jerebko, Olynyk, and Johnson started the fourth for the Celtics. An all rookie backcourt! Olynyk barking defensive commands! But nothing too exciting happened here, and Sullinger returned for the first time in the second half taking over for Johnson two minutes into the frame. Hunter seemed to fit into the flow of the offense and made a few nice passes, he seemed more comfortable than Rozier. James Young checked in with seven minutes to go, allowed a layup and then got called for a charge. Not so good. Hunter seems to have the early edge in the young swingman minutes department. Perry Jones and Jordan Mickey also saw time, and Mickey had a quick four points including an impressive slam and nice put back. The youngsters closed the 124-91 win for the Celtics.