Celtics

Seven takeaways from the Celtics’ scrimmage win over the Suns

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Everything you need to know from the Celtics' 117-103 win over the Suns in their second scrimmage of the Orlando restart. 

Box Score 

THE BIG STORY

Kemba Walker makes his Orlando debut and looks like his old self physically: After another bout of knee soreness kept him limited during the early days of training camp in Orlando, the All-Star point guard made his bubble debut against the Suns. His box scoreline was rather pedestrian over two brief stints totaling nine minutes (6 points on 2-of-6 FG) but he came out of the action with no setbacks it appears. More importantly, he moved around well on the court, something everyone in the Celtics organization was happy to see.

“He was great,” Brad Stevens said. “Nine to 10 minutes was kind of the time we had for him to play. Like we said, he’s going to be on a minutes restriction when we start playing the seeding games. But I thought he looked good, I thought he had his burst, I thought he played hard defensively. He created chaos on a couple of different plays. Offensively I thought he got to the rim and/or got his shot. So, (I'm) encouraged by it.”

The takes around the rim were particularly promising since that’s the area of Walker’s game that he struggles with the most even when he’s healthy. In his first shot of the game, he took some contact from Deandre Ayton in the paint and still managed to finish after the whistle.

It’s a small step in the big picture for Walker, who didn’t see the floor in the second half at all, unlike the rest of the starters. His minutes will likely be ramped up slowly as the seeding games get going on Friday, but for now Walker is fully buying into the fact that he’s going to have to exercise caution above all else ahead of the postseason.

“I would love to just play and not care about no minutes restrictions or anything of that nature but obviously I can’t,” Walker said. “I got to be smart about things. At this point, it just is what it is. I want to be there for my teammates when we are in the playoffs. Hopefully, by then, the restrictions and things of that nature are completely off.”

TWO UP

Jaylen Brown: The fourth-year wing has been the best-looking player on the Celtics roster so far. He followed up a strong effort on Friday with a team-high 21 points today over 27 minutes. He’s been a threat from inside and out, knocking down 4-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc while shooting 55 percent from the field overall. The degree of difficulty on some of his shots remains high, especially in the midrange, but he’s keeping himself under control and finishing through contact and in traffic repeatedly. He isn’t locked in yet on the defensive end (like much of the roster) but it’s clear that he is ready to perform close to the All-Star level we saw from him all season long.

Gordon Hayward: The veteran looked poised to head to the down column as late as the end of the second quarter after missing his first three shots and failing to make much of an impact on either end. Things changed in a hurry however once he found his rhythm, and Hayward keyed a C’s turnaround in the second and third quarters, scoring all 17 of his points over a 12-minute span. The end result was a terrific all-around outing with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists over 25 minutes on 60 percent shooting from the field. The Celtics are at their best when Hayward is involved in the offense as a shooter and distributor, and that’s what we saw in the middle portion of the game, which helped lead to a 20-0 in the third quarter for Boston.

TWO DOWN

Transition defense: The Celtics had a top-5 NBA defense before the season was suspended and a lot of that was predicated on hustling back and preventing easy buckets. While the C’s effort level may not be there just yet during these scrimmages on defense, it was horrific in the first half as the Suns scored 16 fast break points alone over the first 24 minutes.

“I thought we looked on a couple of occasions like we were staring instead of running,” Stevens said. “So I don’t know that it’s necessarily a lack of effort, I just think we just have to make sure we do a lot better on that end of the floor. A couple of them were they got to the rim, and a couple of them were we just didn’t pick up Booker high enough. If we play like that against Milwaukee, you know, they could set records. So we better be a lot better.”

Daniel Theis: After a strong Orlando debut on Friday, the German center looked pretty flat today. Just 4 points and 2 rebounds in his 17 minutes along with a team-worst -9 in plus/minus. Nothing to be concerned about, but a sign that consistency will be the main issue for this group at the center spot in the postseason.

Injury Report

Walker was limited to just nine minutes due to planned rest for his knee but everyone else played normal minutes for a preseason game. Tacko Fall was the lone DNP-CD on the 17-man roster.

Other takeaways and observations

Romeo Langford's play was the biggest story of the day off the bench: The rookie swingman was active