Pressey Excels During First Preseason Game

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Brad Stevens told us all on Tuesday that we were going to see a lot of Phil Pressey on Wednesday.

Thanks for making that happen, Brad. You made it well worth the price of admission.

Stevens sent Pressey onto the court for his preseason debut with four minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the first quarter of Wednesday's game against the Knicks. The rookie point guard played so well that his coach left him on the floor for a game-high 28 minutes of action.

Pressey sure didn’t disappoint during his time on the stage. We may have been in Providence, R.I., but he made it feel as if we were on Broadway.

Pressey, an undrafted rookie out of Missouri, managed to light the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on fire with a fourth-quarter performance for the (preseason) ages. He nearly single-handedly propelled the Celtics to an incredible comeback win after the team trailed by as many as 23 points in the final frame.

The 22-year-old accounted for 19 of the team’s 37 fourth-quarter points (eight of his own, and 11 via assist), including a floating bucket off of the glass that put Boston on top by one with 22.4 seconds remaining in regulation. As icing on the cake, he also contributed two boards and two steals during the fourth quarter.

To put it in plain text, Pressey was absolutely electric, and that electricity is beginning to garner him quite a bit of attention.

“I think Phil’s going to find time if he keeps doing what he’s doing,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “Now, the challenge is responding to a night where you have a little success, and then responding the nights where you don’t.”

We can worry about that another time. For now, let’s concentrate on what Pressey did against New York.

Pressey finished Wednesday night’s game with a team-high 13 points and a game-high seven assists to go along with three rebounds and two steals. Oh, and he didn’t commit a single turnover, either. He finished the game with a better assist-to-turnover ratio than every other player who stepped onto the floor. That includes New York’s starting point guard, Raymond Felton, as well as their other seasoned guards, Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih.

The numbers don’t lie, and neither does the eye test. Something is clearly working for Pressey, despite the fact that he stands in at just 5-foot-11 (on a good day). He is making up for his lack of size with an uncanny level of quickness that defenders can’t handle.

“His speed is obviously really good,” Stevens said. “He’s a hard guy to keep in front. You think you’ve got him stopped and he can just kind of snake by you.”

That’s exactly what he did while he was swishing and dishing during the fourth quarter. Pressey’s teammates have come to expect such plays, and that’s why Chris Babb was ready to reap the benefits Wednesday night.

“As soon as I see him drive and the defense collapse, my eyes light up,” said Babb, who shot 4-of-5 from downtown during Boston’s comeback, including two assists from Pressey. “As well as everyone else on the court, because they know the first thing he’s looking for is who he can pass to.”

That is, of course, if he doesn’t see an alley for himself. Like Stevens noted, Pressey has a way of getting around defenders when they least expect it. He also knows how to finish at the rim with both hands, which was one of the most impressive skills he showcased during this game.

The right-handed Pressey smoothly kissed two buckets off of the glass with his left hand during the fourth quarter. He may not be ambidextrous, but he sure looked the part on those plays.

He also looked like he was starring on Broadway in a show called, “Celtics versus Knicks: The Comeback in Providence.”

Pressey didn't cap that epic comeback with a victory, but he led Stevens and the rest of us to believe that he can be a legitimate contributor on this roster.