The Boston Celtics had all but punched their ticket to the Summer League championship game by the final minute of the third quarter in Saturday night’s matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers after Romeo Langford drove to the cup for a layup that put his team up, 78-53.
However, Juhann Begarin did the unthinkable on Boston’s ensuing defensive possession: he picked up a full-court press in a 25-point game.
Boston’s 19-year-old second-round draft pick stuck to Lamar Peters’ hip like glue as the Sixers guard attempted to weave his way up-court before eventually forcing Peters to kick out to the perimeter following a failed blow-by attempt.
Following suit of Begarin’s aggressiveness, Celtics two-way wing Sam Hauser sprinted out to the perimeter, got down in a low stance, and poked the ball out of Tucker’s hands as Tucker attempted to spin past him to the hoop, resulting in a turnover.
It was seemingly a meaningless possession in what turned out to be a 100-80 win. However, in the eyes of Summer Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla, that play encapsulated his team’s success along its path to Tuesday’s title game, and it also served as a valuable lesson to all of the NBA hopefuls in the room during Monday’s film review.
“That was the first clip of the film session,” Mazzulla told Celtics.com. “I specifically told them, 'If you have the humility and professionalism to always play hard regardless of what's going on around you, you're going to be successful.'”
Having such a collective mentality is what has allowed the Celtics to have such a dominant summer, as they’ve posted a 4-0 record with an average margin of victory of 21 points.
“They're great players and they're smart players,” Mazzulla said. “And they have the humility to play hard no matter what.”
Humility can be hard to come by on the Summer League stage, as NBA hopefuls tend to focus on showcasing their individual talents while attempting to make an impression on prospective teams. However, the Celtics have found a way to strike a balance between individual and team, and it’s paying off.
“I think overall, there’s just a lot of unselfishness,” said Hauser. “We’re sharing the ball, moving the ball. It doesn’t matter who scores, it’s just about the result at the end of the game.”
The Celtics have scored in triple digits in each of their last three games, which is unusually high for a 40-minute exhibition. Their league-leading scoring average of 100.0 points per game would translate to 120 PPG on a 48-minute scale.
With that being said, the team is most proud of its defensive effort. Thanks to relentless possessions like one they had at the end of the third quarter Saturday night, the C’s have limited opponents to just 79.0 PPG.
“I really think our defense has been overlooked,” said Hauser. “I think we’ve played really, really well on that end of the floor, and I think that’s definitely what’s catapulted us to those big leads in the game. So as long as we stick with that, I think we’ll have a good chance.”
Even though it is just Summer League, Hauser and the rest of his teammates are taking the results seriously and have been taking a championship-or-bust mentality into every matchup.
“We’ve been excited to play in every game so far through Summer League,” he said. “It’s a chance to showcase yourselves and show what you have to offer. I think us being 4-0, it’s been fun to play the way we have because we’re sharing the ball, everybody’s kind of showing what they can do. And now we’re just really excited to hopefully take this thing home. We didn’t come here to lose.”
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