Celtics Show The Lakers Who The Dominant Franchise Is
On Saturday night the Celtics and Lakers faced off yet again in Las Vegas for some Summer League action. The stadium was sold out, and the atmosphere was pretty intense. Both franchises started a rebuild at roughly the same time. It's been a race to see which franchise was ahead in their process. The Celtics have clearly shown their team is better these past couple years, but Lakers fans loved to argue they have the better prospects. Well tonight we finally got to see that play out (sans Brandon Ingram). Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, and Abdel Nader led the Celtics against the Lakers who were led by Lonzo Ball, Josh, Hart, Ivica Zubac, and Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers young guys actually looked pretty good, especially Lonzo's tremendous court vision, and led for about 3/4 of the game. Then late in the 3rd quarter Jayson Tatum helped the Celtics take the lead and they never looked back. The Celtics got yet another win against our longtime rival, showing that we are currently a better franchise from top to bottom. There was a lot to be happy about from a Celtics fan perspective, our prospects looked good and added another win to their Summer League record. However no one is perfect, so they left us a lot to discuss.
Some Celtics fans may be down on Jaylen's performance against the Lakers. He had a few turnovers and some sloppy plays. He still ended up with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. It was an average game stats wise, but he was asked to do way more than he is in a regular NBA game. He played a point-forward role tonight, and was asked to be the main ball handler and distributor when on the court. This is not something he is used to or will even end up doing this year, but it helps him strengthen parts of his games that he wouldn't be able to otherwise. We know Jaylen can succeed as a spot up shooter, slasher, and defender, but the Celtics are trying to get him to improve his ball handling and passing. Those are things he will need in order to elevate his game to another level and I'm glad the Celtics are using this summer as a way to do it. I'm still as confident as ever in Jaylen.
The other half of 7/11 had a really impressive game. In the first half he got off to a slow start with 6 points, but in the second half he stepped up and ended up with 27 points and 11 rebounds. I was one of the first to criticize Ainge for taking Tatum over Fultz, but he is continuing to win me over. I had concerns about his offensive game translating, but he has showed how well polished his offensive skill set is. However, he did force some shots at times. He had times in the game where he would force multiple fade aways in a row, which is something he will need to change to become a more efficient scorer. He needs to mix in more attacks at the rim to make him even harder to guard because he does have an array of talented fade aways and jumpers, but he cant solely rely on that multiple possessions in a row. Still, I am now more confident in his offense translating to the NBA. His defense on the other hand still has me concerned. He did not play great defensively, struggling to close out on shooters and letting guys go right by him. He did show some good on-the-ball defensive possessions, but when a quicker guy drove at him he had a hard time not letting the guy go right by him. The more concerning part about his defensive performances were his failed attempts at closing out on shooters. It is so important in today's NBA to be able to close out on shooters on the perimeter effectively. If you can't then it makes it harder to have you on the court against high volume shooting teams. His close out ability isn't beyond repair though and can hopefully be improved.
Semi Ojeleye was an absolute delight against the Lakers. I thought he was a steal when we drafted him and think that even more now. Semi played good defense while lighting it up behind the perimeter. He scored 19 points while going 5 for 9 from 3 and spacing the floor when defenders crashed on his teammates who penetrated. Not to mention he also had an impressive finish at the rim and two trips to the free throw line. Semi's versatility on offense and defense is showing me that he can at least be a valuable role player for this team at some point and has potential to be a lot more than that. He was overlooked during the draft. Some had him going as high as 22nd, but we stole him at 37th and its looking like a bargain at the moment.
Last year's D-league star Abdel Nader has continued to show flashes of good play. He provided another scoring option, ball handler, and rebounder. Nader scored 14 points while grabbing 7 rebounds and taking the load off ball handlers like Jaylen and Demetrius Jackson. He continually will penetrate the defense and either attack the rim or kick it out to move the ball to find the best shot. At times Nader can be out of control while penetrating the defense, but he has a knack for getting past his defender. He reminds me of Evan Turner somewhat as he struggles at shooting from deep, but can attack the rim, handle the ball, and be a capable rebounder and defender. He is currently fighting for a roster spot and doing a good job to strengthen his case.
Some people are disappointed in Zizic's performance this summer and it's understandable. He hasn't made that noticeable of an impact and isn't seeing much time. His only takeaway from other games was his ability to rebound but he didn't manage to get a single rebound this game while getting only 2 points in just 10 minutes. The Zizic hype train may have lost some steam but not all hope is lost. I just think he is having some trouble adjusting to the fast pace of the NBA style of play. He appears to get tired and his stamina and endurance will get better with time. Its not like he is going to get major minutes this year anyways. I still think that at worst Zizic will be a good rebounder off the bench and has time to improve the other parts of his game.
Demetrius Jackson hasn't done much to impress me this summer. This might have been his most balanced game, but he still didn't look that great. He had a favorable defensive matchup in Lonzo Ball who struggles with quicker guards. Jackson continued his struggles at finishing and shooting beyond the arc. He will have to step it up to make the team this year.
Lonzo Ball answered the critics last night when he fucked around and got a triple double. I have called Ball overrated (which i stand by) due to his inability to create offense for himself at times, but I cannot deny his amazing court vision. Ball was dropping dimes with some Magic Johnson like passes. At worst Ball will be a good floor general who can hit shots if you sag off of him.
PS- This is completely unrelated but i still miss Avery Bradley. Had to be done but he is a Celtic through and through and his defense and hustle will be missed.