Boston Celtics secure comeback: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Lakers

The Boston Celtics entered their third Summer League game without a win to their name, yet found a way to earn a hard-fought win against Los Angeles Lakers, who entered the night on a two-game winning streak. Celtics fans got their first look at Dalano Banton, while Jordan Walsh showed no signs of the knee injury he suffered in the opening minutes of the game against Washington Wizards.

Max Christie and the Lakers are the strongest perimeter shooting team and seemed to control the game with their three point scoring abilities. However, Boston was in no mood for a third straight loss and battled back from a deficit to beat their fiercest rivals.

Here are 10 takeaways from an exciting Summer League game.

#1 Shooting Variance continues to hurt the Celtics

Let’s be honest. This year’s Summer League roster isn’t teeming with perimeter shooters. Instead, there’s a roster full of players who boast good size and length and can pressure the rim at will. Some members of the roster can hit threes at an average clip. Only Jay Scrubb is a natural out-and-out scorer.

It wasn’t a surprise, then, that the Celtics went 4-of-14 from deep in the first half before pulling things back a bit to finish the game 9-of-16 (34.6%). Last season, the Celtics had their fair share of run-ins with the trials and tribulations that can come with being a perimeter-heavy team, yet the Summer League roster quickly adjusted and began to make good use of their size around the rim and in the midrange.

In the clip above, you can see Jordan Walsh use a delayed cut to create a lane and get right at the rim. It’s possessions like these where Boston turned their attention to ‘hitting singles’ that kept them within striking distance as the Lakers enjoyed a hot start.

#2 A different tempo of the game

In their opening two games of Summer League, Boston has looked to push the pace and set the tone. Against the Lakers, the Celtics employed a more methodical approach on offense, employing additional pick-and-roll actions while looking to develop scoring opportunities in the half court. As such, we saw more off-ball movement and got to see JD Davison and Banton’s decision-making skills as they constantly probed the defense before making reads.

#3 Brad Stevens seems happy with Malcolm Brogdon & Payton Pritchard

Brad Stevens joined the announcer’s table during the first quarter, giving a lot of ‘GM Speak’ about the moves this summer. Still, the one thing that stood out was how he talked about the team’s guard rotation moving forward.

“I think the biggest thing we had really, really good depth at the guard spots,” Stevens said. “All the way down the line, we had good guards that didn’t get a lot of minutes…Our guards should have some room to work (after the addition of Kristaps Porzingis.)”

Derrick White figures to be the starting point guard for the Celtics next season, with Malcolm Brogdon continuing in his sixth-man role and Payton Pritchard rounding out the rotation. And of course, Jaylen Brown will continue to start at the two-guard spot. Banton and JD Davison will then be left to duke it out regardless of the remaining minutes.

#4 Our first look at Dalano Banton

We’ve waited two full games to get our first look at Banton following the Celtics’ acquisition of the 6’9” guard in free agency. First impressions are always difficult, especially in the chaos that is Summer League basketball. Still, the first impression wasn’t bad at all.

Banton looked controlled when he initiated actions as a pick-and-roll ball handler and seemed willing to fight to get his scores.

In the play above, you can see Banton pull his dribble over a shift screen before turning the corner to get downhill. Banton has a man chasing him behind, but he doesn’t allow himself to gain speed. Instead, the 23-year-old remains poised and goes into his shooting motion at his own pace. Unfortunately, there were also moments when Banton looked a little too passive after getting into a scoring position – as seen below.

On the defensive end, Banton used his size well, although he found himself cut back on more than one occasion. Banton will need to improve his body positioning and awareness if he wants to avoid getting torn up on back cuts during the regular season. Again, this was one game and first impressions can be deceiving, so it’s likely that Banton has more to offer than what we saw against the Lakers.

#5 The Summer League defense in full effect

Outside of Walsh, who played a ferocious defensive game, the Celtics struggled to limit the Lakers’ offensive chances and force bad shots. Miscommunication saw turnovers occur late, they saw players being driven into screens, while poor positioning resulted in pocket passes, snatch-back jumpers and free lanes to the hoop.

Defense is a team responsibility. Communication is a team responsibility. At times it seemed like no one was looking for the man next to them. Fortunately, as the game progressed, Boston increased their defensive intensity and began to get stops.

At the NBA level, especially with a struggling team like the Celtics, defense is how you’re going to earn rotation minutes. Making a big impact as a valuable defensive commodity should be a top priority for everyone on the Summer League roster – no matter what else you bring to the table.

#6 JD Davison has another impressive night

It feels like JD Davison can do everything well except score the rock. The second-year guard is adept at securing rebounds. Davison can control the tempo of the game. Assists come easily to the explosive guard due to his ability to penetrate defenses and power collapses with his rim pressure and explosiveness. But for some reason, converting his attempts into points is still a problem for Davison.

Nonetheless, Davison played well against the Lakers, finishing the contest without recording a single turnover. In a slower game than we’ve seen thus far, Davison adjusted his style of play and used his changes of pace to penetrate perimeter defenses while also flashing his upside as a lob passer.

Davison still has work to do on the defensive end of the floor and must continue to work on his ability to finish through contact and hit perimeter jumpers. However, another year in the G-League will do wonders for a guard who has already made strides within the past 12 months.

#7 Where was Justin Bean?

Justin Bean has been a constant contributor in the Summer League. Bean has not been flashy or stood out, yet he has been steady and reliable. But when Banton entered the rotation, it was Bean who saw his playing time take a hit, resulting in a quiet and ineffective night.

#8 Celtics bound for third quarter performance, it seems

In recent years, the third quarter has been a make-or-break moment for the Celtics. During the NBA bubble, I kept count of how many times Boston blew a game with a poor halftime showing. While under Udoka, the Celtics turned the third quarter into a weapon. And Mazzulla experienced a mixed bag of results.

Against the Lakers, the Celtics once again waited until the third quarter to come alive. I’m chasing a Los Angeles lead before he goes ahead in the dying moments. It appears that the Celtics and third quarter performance is limited to only NBA games.

The Celtics outscored the Lakers 30-17 in the third, with Walsh leading the way with 12 points, 2 rebounds and 50% shooting from the perimeter.

#9 Udoka Azubuike and Olek Balcerowksi switch roles

Against the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards, Olek Balcerowksi was the most impressive of Boston’s big duo. Still, Udoka Azubuike has grown in production over the last two games and had his best performance in a Celtics Summer League jersey against the Lakers.

Still not the best of screeners, Azubuike made up for deficiencies by being more active as an off-ball big, using solid movement, along with being a big body in the paint.

Where Balcerowksi found himself along for the ride, Azubuike made himself present. However, we have to give props to Balcerowksi for having the best rebounding night of his summer league so far, as this has been a weakness I’ve been eager to see him address.

#10 With Jordan Walsh

You have to ask yourself if Brad Stevens and Joe Mazzulla have given Tony Dobbins a mandate to play Walsh on the offensive end. After entering the NBA with a reputation as a fearsome defender with offensive limitations, Walsh has been tasked with handling the rock, shooting threes and pushing the rim over his first three Summer League games.

It didn’t start well for Walsh, but he grew in stature throughout the contest and finished the game 10-of-20 shooting from the field. Having Walsh feels like a predicted move to help accelerate his offensive development and potentially signals that he will have some sort of role in the rotation next season. It’s going to be a while before Walsh looks comfortable from the perimeter on a consistent basis, but it’s easy to forget that Grant Williams was a 25% shooter from deep as a rookie.

Walsh clearly has fans within the Celtics franchise, and Summer League is the perfect time to start giving him all the reps he needs to start blossoming into the three-and-d wing the Celtics likely envision say that he stays.

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