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Celtics Give Ime Udoka A Thrilling Win And Other Takeaways From First Preseason Game

By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Celtics basketball is back, albeit a preseason version of Celtics basketball. We still have a little over two weeks before the real thing tips off.

For now, we'll have to overreact to what we see in Boston's four preseason tilts. And overreact we will, because Monday night's opener was a pretty exciting one.

The Celtics gave Ime Udoka a win in his first game on the Boston bench, and it was a thrilling one at that. The C's made a spirited comeback over the Orlando Magic at TD Garden on Monday night, with Romeo Langford making a steal and knocking down a game-winning three with 14.2 seconds left in the game. Celtics reserves erased a 10-point Magic lead with 5:45 to play, going on a 22-10 run to finish the game, and walked off the floor with a 98-97 victory.

The ending was fun, but getting there will give Udoka and his staff plenty to discuss with the team leading up to Saturday's second preseason game. For starters, Udoka wasn't too thrilled with his team shooting just 35 percent on the evening.

"Obviously, a pretty ugly win overall," he said after the game. "On the offensive end you shoot 35 percent; I don't know how many wins you're gonna get, but we made them late when they counted. Defensively I thought we were solid, but had some slippage in areas."

The slippage was in defensive rotations, which should get better as this new team sees more time together. And Udoka made it clear that the Celtics will be better on the offensive end.

"We know we're not gonna shoot 35 percent again," he said adamantly.

And now, the overreactions to a win over a bad team that doesn't count. Let the fun begin.

The Jays Look Ready

Boston's success this year boils down to two gentlemen: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But you know that. Everyone knows that.

The duo look real good in their first action of the year, especially Brown. He seemed a little bit faster throughout his 26 minutes of action, with a little extra bounce in his step in transition. Brown is always adding a lil something something to his game over the offseason, and it appears that getting to the basket with a lot more aggression will be part of his repertoire this season.

Brown finished with a game-high 25 points off 8-for-16 shooting, with 16 of those points coming in an energetic burst in the first quarter. It was his first game action since May and first since undergoing offseason wrist surgery. After the game, Brown said he's about 80-85 percent at the moment.

As for Tatum, we saw that new muscular frame of his come in handy in the low post on a few different occasions.

That was a lovely posterizing drive against Wendell Carter Jr., who is no slouch at 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds. More of that please. A lot more of that.

Those wider shoulders of his should help Tatum create more space to get his shot off anywhere he wants. He finished the evening with 18 points and nine rebounds. He took just four threes, with half of his 16 shots coming from around the hoop.


Here is Langford's game-winning sequence:

He was 2-for-6 overall, with both of his makes coming from downtown as he looks to claim an important role off the bench.

Al Off The Bench

Al Horford is busting with excitement over his return to Boston. He may be the happiest dude in the NBA.

He came off the bench on Monday night with Juancho Hernangomez getting the start, mostly because Udoka wants to try different things during the preseason. (Udoka said not to read too much into his rotations -- which saw eight guys come off the bench -- during Boston's exhibition schedule.)

Horford had five points off 2-for-6 shooting to go with seven boards over his 18 minutes. He had a nice alley-oop from Dennis Schroder, and canned a corner three off a nifty behind-the-back feed from Jaylen Brown.

Nesmith Was Hot

Bench play left a lot to be desired. Schroder and Josh Richardson were a combined 2-for-15, and are going to have to be a whole lot better off the pine.

But Aaron Nesmith was feeling it, going 4-for-5 from the floor, including 2-for-3 from long distance. The Celtics sorely need someone to stretch the floor off the bench, and it's looking like the second-year swingman could fill that role.


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