The best of the C's Orlando Summer League

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The best of the C's Orlando Summer League

ORLANDO, Fla. The Celtics concluded the Orlando portion of their summer league schedule Friday with a 94-73 win over the Orlando Magic. Boston finished with a 4-1 record, but let's be honest. Teams don't put much stock in wins and losses this time of year.

The focus has more to do with evaluating talent, and seeing how that talent fits in with a team's goals and objectives.

With that said, here's a look at the C's 12-man summer league roster now that their five-game Orlando summer league schedule is complete.

BEST OF THE BEST

Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State:
Summary: Offensively, picked up where he left off in college as a good scorer around the basket. Better passer and rebounder than expected, a clear result of having a high basketball IQ. However, he tends to fall in love with the long-ball and spends too much time politicin' for calls instead of just playing through them.

Dionte Christmas, GF, Temple
Strengths: Can score in a variety of ways; plays with lots of energy at both ends of the floor; not a lock-down defender, but plays with a certain amount of smarts and savvy. However, he doesn't have a true position and doesn't play with a great amount of athleticism which at times can put him at a disadvantage particularly on defense.
Weaknesses: Doesn't have a true position on the floor. Inconsistent at times.

E'Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
Summary: Spent the bulk of his time at the point guard position, still needs to improve his court vision and setting up teammates. Still, he has the ability to score in bunches and plays with the kind of confidence you want in a floor leader. Like most young players, Moore needs to be more consistent with the things he does best - making shots.

Kris Joseph, F, Syracuse
Summary: A second-round pick, Joseph has been arguably the biggest surprise thus far for the Celtics. He didn't look particularly good in practices, but has played well in most of the summer league games. His mid-range jumper has been solid, but even more impressive has been his defense and rebounding - two things that will bode well in his quest to earn a roster spot with the Celtics.

Jamar Smith, G, Southern Indiana
Summary: Shot the ball well all week, but his ball-handling and defense need work. He did some good things and probably did enough to warrant an invite to training camp.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sean Williams, FC, Boston College
Summary: He saw limited action, but continues to draw rave reviews from the coaches who see him as a potential rotation player this season. He has the kind of athleticism defensively that the Celtics desperately need. That athleticism coupled with him being such a willing defender makes the decision for Boston to pick up the option on his second season, a pretty easy one.

JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue
Summary: Johnson's play was up and down throughout the summer league. The C's want to play him some at the power forward position, but even against the young and inexperienced, he struggled to be an effective player in the post. He has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but his range doesn't extend out to the 3- point line which makes him a "stretch 4" with limitations. He has to step his game up in a number of areas in order to not have a repeat of his rookie season.

Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Summary: As billed, Melo's defense is ahead - way ahead - of his offense. He was more of a shot-alterer than a shot-blocker. His lateral quickness is surprisingly good on defending pick-and-rolls. Although he's not a great rebounder, he understands angles and how to position himself to draw charges which is rare for a big man with his shot-blocking and shot-altering talent.

Jonathan Gibson, G, New Mexico State
Summary: Other than a 17-point explosion in Boston's win over Brooklyn on Tuesday, Gibson has done little offensively. Although he's undersized, showed signs of being a good on-the-ball pressure defender in the Avery Bradley mold. He's on the bubble for receiving an invite to training camp.

Larry Owens, GF, Oral Roberts
Summary: A fringe NBA player, Owens was relatively quiet until the Friday's win against Orlando. He may in fact get an invitation to training camp, but the prospects of him leap-frogging past a player like Christmas or Joseph, seems unlikely.

BEFORE WE FORGET

Stephane Lasme, F, UMass
Summary: After being the last player cut by the Celtics a couple years ago, it's highly unlikely Lasme will get that close this time around. In fact, getting an invite to training camp will be a bit of a surprise. His defense is still pretty good. But the improvements he has supposedly made in his shooting and ball-handling, were nowhere to be found this week.

Craig Brackins, F, Iowa State
Summary: This former first-round pick had 10 points in Boston's win over Orlando, but this week by no means was a success for him. He played fewer minutes than any other Celtic. He is a big man with 3-point range, something that was not on display until Friday. He'll likely get more opportunities during the Las Vegas summer league with the Celtics to prove that his play on Friday wasn't a fluke and possibly earn an invite to training camp.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

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But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth-quarter performance

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth-quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

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Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.