As we all know, the preseason doesn’t mean a whole lot from a wins and losses standpoint.
That said, the Celtics will gladly take a 6-1 record as they prepare for the season opener on Wednesday at the TD Garden against the Philadelphia 76ers (7:30 p.m., CSNNE).
The C's seem like an improved team after last year’s surprising second-half run to the playoffs.The Celtics, led by head coach Brad Stevens, are looking to make even more noise this season – and this time from the very beginning.
Last year, the C’s got off to a 4-11 start to the season. They played a lot of tough teams in November – road games in Houston, Dallas, Chicago and Memphis, with home against the Thunder, Cavs, Blazers, and Spurs. While they’ll see some of those teams early on again this season, November doesn’t look so daunting.
But regardless of which team is on the schedule, the Celtics should feel that they can hang with any team. Too often last year we saw them go down by double digits early on in a game only to stag a big comeback that fell short. Locking in at tip-off is going to be key for this year’s team.
“I think the way that I’d phrase it is, ‘Just get off to a good start,’” Stevens said after the team’s final preseason game. “I mean, like you have to start games well, you have to start third quarters well. And then you have to be able to finish quarters. And there have been moments that – we’re going to find out that a starting group starts games well, starts third quarters well, and if not we’ll make changes swiftly, because we can.
“So, hey, it’s a long year, but you’ve got to start well and you’ve got to be prepared to play. And I think when you’re generally prepared to play you look engaged, you sound engaged, and you come out ready to roll right from the get-go.”
The Celtics have started Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee, and Tyler Zeller in four preseason games this year – including the final two – and it’s assumed that those five will get the start when the regular season begins.
But Boston has the depth and the interchangeable parts to allow Stevens to get creative with his lineups, as long as his guys stay healthy.
Heading into the regular season, health is on the Celtics' side – and they’re out to prove talent is on their side too.
“We all grew up being the best player on our team, respectively, and competing and winning,” Smart said. “We all are used to winning. So, when we get out there against somebody that’s just as good as us, we want to show what we have and showcase our talents.”