The Celtics jumped on the Nets early and proceeded to lead this one from end to end en route to a 109-105 victory. The shorthanded C's, without Smart, Bradley, Lee, and Rozier, were paced by Amir Johnson's 19 points and 6 rebounds in his 24 minutes. Isaiah Thomas added 17 points (3-5 from deep) and 9 assists over 25 minutes. Kelly Olynyk (11 points), Evan Turner (10 points), RJ Hunter (11 points) and Jae Crowder (11 points) were also in double figures for the Celtics. Brooklyn cut it to single digits in garbage time, but this one was never in doubt.
The Celtics took a 54-43 lead into halftime. Amir Johnson and Isaiah Thomas both netted 17 points a piece heading into the break, making their case for a slot in Brad Stevens' starting lineup. RJ Hunter was 3-3 from downtown at the half, adding 9 first half points for the Celts.
After leading much of the first half by double digits, the Nets closed the gap in the third, cutting the deficit to four points. It was Evan Turner who stopped the bleeding and ran the offense late in the third. A couple Turner mid-range jumpers and drives to the hoop and the Celtics took a 78-71 lead into the fourth. Turner had 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists after three.
Back to back Olynyk threes in the fourth put the game firmly in the Celtics control, expanding the lead to 15 points. The Celtics led by as many as 18. Training camp invite Corey Walden got some run in the fourth and capitalized with an acrobatic fast break layup. He entered the game before Perry Jones in the second half, which can't be good news for his roster chances.
Feeling good about that Brooklyn pick this year, really good.
Amir Johnson impressed early. His threes, drives to the hoop, and suffocating defense were all things that Jared Sullinger can not really do consistently. Sullinger did have a big three late in the third, but Johnson clearly has the upper hand here. Plus he miiiiiiiight be in better condition.
Sullinger was a non-factor in this one. Only 1-8 shooting, he was -8 in only 12 minutes of action. Not good for his prospects this year or his trade value.
RJ Hunter alert! Back to back threes forced a Nets time out in the second, stretching the Celtics lead to 35-25. He gets rid of it quick. Hunter's shooting touch, combined with his court vision and ability to move the ball will get him minutes this year. He's been better than anticipated on defense, with 4 steals against the Nets.
With the starting backcourt plus Rozier out, Hunter made the most of his minutes and sure looks more ready contribute than James Young, who didn't show signs of life until the fourth. He canned a three and then had a vicious block within a span of ten seconds to remind everyone he still has serious potential. Jordan Mickey added an emphatic swat as Stevens emptied his bench for the back half of the fourth quarter, and the rookie continues to make the most of his limited minutes.
Kelly Olynyk got a delay of game penalty for entering the game with his shirt untucked. Tighten it up Kelly.
Jarret Jack got ejected from a preseason game for lowering his shoulder into Jonas Jerebko and flattening the Swedish Larry Bird. Apparently he didn't see that preseason video from Amir Johnson I linked to above. Don't come in the paint next week, bro. Preseason rivalries!
Photo Credit NBAE via Getty Images/Nathaniel Butler