Celtics Fall to Clippers in Summer Finale
LAS VEGAS – The Celtics closed their five-game NBA Summer League stand in Las Vegas on Sunday, falling to the Los Angeles Clippers 92-77.
With only 10 players in uniform, the C’s were shorthanded again and never really recovered from the fallout from the Courtney Lee trade that gutted their roster.
“It’s been weird, guys had to play more minutes than they’ve been playing. We only had eight or nine guys,” Celtics coach Tyronn Lue said after the game and the league wrapped up. “But I thought we had a great group of guys who competed every night. Tonight we didn’t have it.”
The Clippers led at the half 49-39, and went on a 9-0 run to start the second half, opening a 58-39 lead before the Celtics finally responded. But the C’s looked gassed and never mustered a real comeback. Meanwhile, Adam Morrison put on a show, dropping 24 of his 26 points in the first three quarters, drawing “MVP” chants – we’re not kidding – from the Cox Pavilion crowd.
But the details of Sunday’s game are largely insignificant. What’s more important is how players performed and developed throughout the two weeks in Orlando and Las Vegas. The feel-good story of this week has to be the inspired play of Dionte Christmas, who told reporters after the game that he’s agreed to a deal with the Celtics and will be in training camp to compete for a job.
Details of the deal aren’t yet available, but Christmas was elated to have finally secured a shot at an NBA job.
“I actually got the call before the game started. But I’m just happy, emotional. I got the call like literally two minutes before the game started,” Christmas said.
Given the mid-week trade that sent E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Sean Willliams to the Houston Rockets, Jared Sullinger is probably the other guy everyone had their eyes on. After a week in Orlando and a week in Vegas, Sullinger proved he can rebound at the NBA level. He also showed that he won’t jump over anyone, but he’s got no problem powering through opponents. His post moves definitely need some polishing, but he works hard on the block and that’s probably half the battle.
Lue compared him to a “Zack Randolph type” of player, and obviously Sullinger has a long way to go before he’s at that level, but he seems determined to put in the work. He’s talked all week about refining his game and getting “in the best shape of my life.”
As for his post game and work down low, he said he was focused on just trying to get himself to the stripe.
“I’ve just got to keep battling down there. As long as I keep battling I think I can get to the free throw line,” Sullinger said.
Kris Joseph, called the “biggest surprise of the summer league” by head coach Doc Rivers, didn’t put up big numbers, and if anything, his stats proved a bit underwhelming. But he always looks comfortable on the floor, and when you garner such high praise from the coach, well, you must be doing something right.
Fab Melo didn’t particularly stand out at any point during the week, but he did swat a few shots loudly (he had 3 blocks in the first half Sunday) and showed some of the raw talent that should make him an interesting project. He played through a hand injury and picked up minutes vacated by Johnson after the Courtney Lee trade.
After that, Jamar Smith and Craig Brackins showed NBA ability, so they may likely earn training camp invites around the league.