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Bench Guards Shine, Stars Struggle & Other Overreactions To Celtics' Preseason Opener

By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics played a basketball game on Tuesday night, and although it has very little meaning for the regular season, we're going to overreact to Boston's 108-99 preseason loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

We've waited nearly three whole months for the NBA to return, so you better believe we're ready to overanalyze every little aspect of the game. We'll do so with the caveat that this is only preseason, so we aren't going to freak out about Jayson Tatum missing a layup or a rookie draining every shot.

"The best thing about the preseason is no matter win, lose or draw, you've always got a ton of film to work off of," Boston head coach Brad Stevens said after Tuesday's defeat. "And we'll do that. It was great to get a chance to get back in there, play, see guys impact the game in different ways. Everything is information right now, so we'll take that."

We'll take it too, Brad. Because there really isn't any training camp to draw observations from and just one more preseason tilt Friday night before the games start to count next week.

So here's what we observed, analyzed, over-analyzed, dreamt about and pondered again this morning from Boston's preseason loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Jayson & Jaylen Struggle

Jayson Tatum
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum makes a driving layup during preseason action against the Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

This is Tatum and Brown's team now, and they both struggled on Tuesday. It's OK. It's just preseason. It's just preseason...

We got to see Tatum's bigger build and new hairdo. And he certainly looks bigger and has more hair. He used that size for a nice layup early in the game. No word on how the hair led to that layup, but we'll be monitoring that going forward.

But overall, Tatum was just OK. He couldn't get to certain spots to get his desired shot, and he forced a handful of other looks. He finished just 4-for-13 and missed all four of his three-point attempts, ending the night with 10 points. He also had three turnovers.

Jaylen was way off throughout the game, hitting just one of his 11 shots. He also turned the ball over four times. Other than his eight rebounds, it was a very forgettable night for JB.

At least it's only the preseason, and chances are Tatum and Brown won't struggle like they did on the same night too often. But with Kemba Walker hurt and Gordon Hayward gone, Boston's success hinges on Tatum and Brown continuing their rise to superstardom.

Teague Has Not Lost A Step

At first glance, it looked like Jeff Teague may have lost a step as he enters his age 32 season. Then Teague showed that no, he has not lost a step. At all.

Teague was a professional scorer off the bench on Tuesday night, pouring in 18 points in his 19 minutes off the pine. He was 7-for-9 from the floor and hit all four of his three-point attempts. Not bad for a career 35.6 percent shooter from downtown.

"We looked the most fluid offensively when Jeff was in the game tonight," Stevens said of his veteran guard. "Really, in the first 30 minutes, I felt like that was the only time the ball was moving the way it needed to was when he was in the game. We need to improve when he's not."

Teague only had one assist, but he was exactly what the Celtics have needed off the bench. Hopefully that continues into the regular season.

Marcus Doesn't Care If It's Preseason

Marcus Smart
Celtics guard Marcus Smart. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Did anyone tell Marcus Smart that Tuesday night was a preseason game? He didn't treat it as such, which is no surprise from Smart.

He took a change 90 seconds into the game, because that is what Marcus Smart does. Then he took another in the second quarter, this time stepping in front of Philly big man Joel Embiid. That had to hurt.

Smart got the start in place of Walker and had just four points (1-for-4) and two assists in his 22 minutes. But he did the other things that Marcus Smart usually does, even if it was just a meaningless preseason tilt.

Pritchard & Nesmith

Payton Pritchard
Celtics rookie point guard Payton Pritchard. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The rookies looked good. They looked like rookies at times, but overall, they looked good.

Pritchard stole the show with 16 points off the bench, looking comfy with both the starters and reserves.

Nesmith didn't check in until nearly halfway through the third quarter, and finished with eight points off 3-for-8 shooting. He hit the first three that he took, but missed each of his next four attempts from downtown. He did have a nice hustle play when he flew in for a nice put-back and was fouled for a three-point play. Nesmith's defense needs some work, but that's to be expected from a rookie.

Both Pritchard and Nesmith should get plenty of run in Friday's preseason finale against the Nets.

Losing The Height Battle

The Celtics sorely lacked size with Daniel Theis (bad back) and Tristan Thompson (hamstring) both out. Joel Embiid took full advantage and pounded the Celtics for 18 points.


Joel Embiid, Robert Williams
Philadelphia center Joel Embiid drives past Robert Williams III of the Boston Celtics. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Robert Williams got the start in place of Theis/Thompson, and he was the same Timelord we're used to seeing: Flashes of greatness followed by moments that need some vast improvement.

Offensively he was fine, catching lobs and turning them into easy points. He finished 4-for-5 from the floor for eight points and six rebounds, and brought his usual amount of energy.

But there were times when he was clearly overthinking things, and Embiid took advantage. Williams did force Embiid into taking a few jumpers, but there were times when he didn't even try to own the paint on defense.

Yucky Basketball

The Celtics have only had a few weeks of practice and they are missing a handful of key pieces to their lineup. But eight turnovers in the first quarter, and 12 overall for the first half, is unacceptable any way you slice it. It also didn't help that the C's shot just 35.7 percent for the first quarter, which erased their good start and let Philly take control.

Semi & Carsen

The Celtics have a packed roster, and at the moment, we're left wondering what Semi Ojeleye and Carsen Edwards bring to the mix. Anyone?

Semi played 17 minutes and took just three shots, hitting one of three from downtown. Edwards missed four of the five shots he took, including all three from three-point range.

The Celtics are thin on bodies at the moment and these are two players who not only need to make the most of their chances, but need to contribute in some way. They did not do that on Tuesday.

Philly Is Gonna Philly

Fans are not around to spread any brotherly love in Philadelphia, but that doesn't mean the Celtics weren't given a Philly welcome Tuesday night. As the C's were introduced, the 76ers pumped in a "You Suck!" chant to make things feel a little more normal inside the Wells Fargo Center.

"That made it feel a little more like Philly," Stevens joked after the game. "I missed all those people behind me wishing me 'Happy Holidays' in their own special way."

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