Celtics Are Encouraged, Not Shaken, By Opening-Night Performance

PHILADELPHIA – The Boston Celtics don’t seem to be very concerned with their shaky performance on Opening Night.

Boston lost 107-93 to the 76ers in a game that was about as ugly as an opening game can be. The Celtics couldn’t buy a bucket, they missed 14 of their 34 free throws, and they committed 29 fouls.

Still, there was not much worry in the team’s collective eyes following the defeat. They know that their performance wasn’t as underwhelming as many on the outside might believe.

“I just told the guys,” Brad Stevens said after the game, “I thought we did a lot of good things.”

The reasoning behind Stevens’ comment stems from Boston’s eye test, as well as its defensive numbers. Both of those measurements suggest that the coach was accurate in his assessment.

First and foremost, the Celtics are content with what they saw with regard to the quality of shots that they generated while running a new offense with new pieces. Their three versatile wings, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as new point guard Kemba Walker, did put pressure on the defense and opened up lanes for shots.

“We got a lot of good looks,” Hayward said, after scoring a game-high 25 points, “and so you’ll take that any day of the week and bank on us making more of those.”

Bank on the C’s making more, Tatum says, because these guys don’t usually miss the shots they created against Philly.

“We missed a lot of shots,” said Tatum. “I know I did. Some of the other guys feel that way. A lot of shots that we would normally make.”

Tatum’s statement is supported by the fact that the team shot just 36.7 percent from the field and 58.8 percent from the free-throw line. Their best players, outside of Hayward, struggled to put the ball through the basket.

Walker shot just 4-for-18 from the field. Tatum, who said he felt like he couldn’t throw a rock into the ocean, made only eight of his 22 attempts. Brown, meanwhile, made only three field goals while being saddled with foul trouble all night.

Those players, along with many more skilled members of the team, will not shoot the ball that poorly very often.

At the other end of the spectrum is something else that was on display Wednesday night, something Boston can expect to showcase on a nightly basis: stout defense.

The Celtics defended at a high level from start to finish, limiting Philadelphia to only 43.5 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from long distance. Ben Simmons, who scored a team-best 24 points for the Sixers, was the only member of the team who made more than six shots.

This defensive performance was against a team many consider to be the favorites in the East. Boston is capable of being a lock-down defense, thanks in large part to its personnel versatility and its overall length and level basketball IQ.

Boston played great defense during the preseason, and it did so again on Opening Night. There’s no reason to expect that trend to disappear.

These visual cues and overall statistics from Philadelphia give the Celtics evidence that their performance was promising. It may not have looked all too pretty, but it wasn’t far off from looking just as they’d like it to.

As Stevens said, “I’m a lot more encouraged than discouraged.”

If that’s what the team is saying, those outside of the locker room should follow suit.


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