BOSTON -- With just four days before their regular season opener in New York City, the Boston Celtics made the most of their final preseason game with a 81-73 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Paul Pierce (right heel) did not play and Sasha Pavlovic got the start in his place.
Rajon Rondo, often criticized for his offensive game, had the hot hand in the first quarter. He scored 10 points in eight minutes, shooting 4-for-5 from the field and making a pair of free throws. The Cs led 22-13 after the first 12 minutes.
The Celtics got a good look at Greg Steimsma in the second quarter. The big man played all but 20 seconds, scoring seven points and making hustle plays. DeMar DeRozan scored half of the Raptors 18 second-quarter points, but his efforts were not enough to get his team back in it. At halftime, the Celtics held a 47-31 lead.
But with the starters on the bench, the Celtics reserves struggled to stay consistent in the third quarter. The Raptors outscored the Cs, 22-20.
When it came down to the final quarter, a young Celtics group held off for the win. Avery Bradley, ETwaun Moore, Gilbert Brown, JaJuan Johnson, Jamal Sampson, and Steimsma all saw playing time, while veteran journeyman Michael Sweetney scored a crowd-pleasing basket.
Andrea Bargnani led all players with 20 points (7-17 FG, 68 FT) while Rondo led the Celtics with 17 points (6-10 FG, 5-6 FT) and six assists. Brandon Bass and Moore combined for 23 points off the bench.
The Celtics finished preseason action 2-0 with both wins coming against the Raptors. They will face the Knicks on Christmas Day at Madison Square Garden.
We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Memphis Grizzlies.
Memphis is no different than any other NBA team when it comes to making changes.
It’s an inevitable part of the NBA.
There are changes, and then there’s losing Zach Randolph and Tony Allen to free agency.
They didn’t lose the face of their franchise.
They lost its backbone.
And when you throw in the departure of Vince Carter, the Grizzlies are getting younger and more athletic and maybe just as significant, further removed from the physical, rough-and-tough brand of basketball they played for years.
You’ll have to go to YouTube to see Grit-and-Grind anymore.
Still, this isn’t all that surprising when you consider they brought in a new coach last year, David Fizdale, who came from Miami but also spent time on the bench as an assistant in Atlanta and Golden State.
Those teams played a more position-less, free-flowing brand of basketball compared to the Grizzlies.
So what we’re starting to see now is a Memphis team that will eventually look and hopefully play, more akin to what their coach envisions.
While the DNA of this team has changed dramatically, the Grizzlies will still be among the teams battling for one of the last playoff spots in the West this season.
They return Marc Gasol who still ranks among the best centers in the NBA. They also have point guard Mike Conley Jr., who unfortunately still holds the title for the best veteran player to not be named to an NBA All-Star team.
He’s coming off his best season as a pro when he averaged career highs in scoring (20.5 points per game) and shooting (45.9 percent from the field, 40.7 percent on 3’s) along with 3.5 rebounds, also a career benchmark.
In addition, Conley’s 6.3 assists per game were just 0.2 assists away from tying his career best in that category.
But for Memphis to surprise many and extend its playoff run to eight years in a row, the Grizzlies’ inside-outside tandem of Gasol and Conley, will need help.
A healthy Chandler Parsons would be a huge boost.
One of the more versatile wing players in the league, injuries have left Parsons a shell of the player that he once was.
He has had each of his past three seasons end prematurely due to injuries, so it’s hard to imagine Memphis will be banking on him to be healthy enough to make a major impact on the team this season.
They added Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans, both from Sacramento, to the roster this season.
Both come into training camp competing for a starting job.
The Grizzlies also have high hopes for 6-9 forward Rade Zagorac, a second-round pick in 2016 acquired from Boston who spent an additional year overseas before coming over to the NBA.
The new faces will be critical to the success of Memphis in those post Grit-and-Grind era.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Ben McLemore (Sacramento); Tyreke Evans (Sacramento).
Key losses: Zach Randolph (Sacramento); Tony Allen (New Orleans); Vince Carter (Sacramento).
Rookies of note: Rade Zagorac; Ivan Rabb; Dillon Brooks.
Expectations: 33-49 (fourth in the Southwest Division, 11th in the West).