A mix of analysis and observations after the Celtics lost 137-112 to the Rockets in their final scrimmage in Orlando
THE BIG STORY: STARTERS GET THE NIGHT OFF
The Celtics made it through their final scrimmage with their core fully healthy. Brad Stevens made sure of that on Tuesday night after deciding to rest his top seven players (the starters plus Marcus Smart and Enes Kanter). The choice was an understandable one when it comes to avoiding injuries in meaningless situations. The Celtics starters (minus Kemba) got big minutes on Sunday night and after an injury-plagued first 65 games of the regular season for this team’s core, Stevens opted to play it safe rather than tempt fate.
The Rockets haven’t had a chance to play as much together over the past few weeks in Orlando due to late arrivals by Russell Westbrook and James Harden to the bubble, so Mike D'Antoni played his starters big minutes. That made this matchup a lopsided mismatch against Boston’s (mostly) third bench unit despite a 10-0 start by the C’s. Houston put on a show offensively with their 3-point shooting for the rest of the night but they also lost a starter to what looked to be an ankle injury (Eric Gordon). That unfortunate mishap was a reminder that Stevens exercising caution with his core shouldn’t be questioned in this scenario.
Grant Williams: The big man came off the bench but had arguably his best game in a Celtic uniform. He hit 4 of his first 5 shots, on his way to a team-high 14 points over his 24 minutes. A number of those attempts were contested in the midrange, along with a tough 3 at the top of the arc. Williams also added a team-high nine rebounds and a couple of nifty assists while providing his usual high IQ on the defensive end of the floor. The scoring upside is something the Celtics are going to need out of him whenever he does take the floor as a stretch center with the starters to punish teams helping off him. A performance like this should give him some added confidence heading into the seeding games.
Semi Ojeleye: Nothing overly special about this effort but he nailed two of his three attempts from beyond the arc, which helped him to post 12 points in just 23 minutes. He was a little more aggressive-looking for his shot without the starters on the court but he fared well offensively besides an ugly night at the free-throw line. He played his role well during these preseason games, solidifying a spot in the rotation for himself heading into the weekend.