Green, Sullinger show great promise for Celtics

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Green, Sullinger show great promise for Celtics

ISTANBUL Even in the preseason, the Boston Celtics are not a team that's about moral victories.

But there were plenty of positives they could take away from their 97-91 loss to Turkish power Fenerbahce Ulker on Friday.

None stood out more than Jeff Green, who came off the bench to score 16 points with most coming in the fourth quarter as Boston tried to rally back.

Green's play was impressive when you consider it was the first game he has played in more than a year.

The 6-8 forward underwent season-ending heart surgery after a routine physical showed he had a heart abnormality.

Despite missing all of last season, the C's still gave him a four-year contract this summer worth about 36 million.

And while it may seem a bit high, Green's play on Friday gives Boston hope that such a lofty price tag will ultimately be viewed as a steal along the same lines as the five-year deal Rajon Rondo signed in 2009.

"I was tired," Green said. "But it felt good."

He was very comfortable; played with great speed," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "

While Green's play certainly was a show-stealer, Boston was also pleased with the solid support they got from Jared Sullinger who like Green, had 16 points off the bench.

"He was terrific," said Rivers, who added that he will look for more ways in the future to play Sullinger with the Celtics starters.

Despite playing a relatively strong game, Sullinger spoke about the need for him to get in better shape and continue to grow on the floor and embrace the role he will be called upon to play for Boston.

"I played well, but I can do a lot better," he said. "I'm a little out of shape; just being able to sustain long minutes."

He added, "I just play hard. I'm not always searching for the ball."

But following this loss, the Celtics will seek out ways to cut down on their turnovers.

They finished with 25 for the game.

Rivers said the C's try to keep turnovers to around 14 a night, a number the C's were flirting with by halftime.

But this is the preseason, a time for growth, experimentation and if you're lucky, a player to emerge as a major contributor.

It's still early, but the C's may have found a couple in Green and Sullinger.

Green's play wasn't all that surprising when you consider many of his baskets came on straight-line drives to the basket, something he's adept at doing because of his quickness.

And when you throw in the fact that he's looking more comfortable at both small forward and the power forward position, he gives Boston the kind of versatility that they have envisioned him delivering.

As for Sullinger, a lottery-pick talent who fell to the C's at No. 21 in last June's NBA draft, he continues to play with a chip on his shoulder that bodes well for his future with the Celtics.

But one good game, a preseason one at that, does not make a career.

Both players had their share of miscues that contributed in some fashion to the loss.

But the problems don't override the promise each showed in the C's first game this season.

Crowder and Booker exchange Instagram barbs following 70-point game

Crowder and Booker exchange Instagram barbs following 70-point game

Jae Crowder is not known for being shy on social media.

He was at it again on Friday night, commenting on an Instagram post of the Phoenix Suns celebrating Devin Booker's 70-point game at the TD Garden.

“NEVER SEEN SO MANY GUYS HAPPY AFTER AN ‘L’’” Crowder said in the Instagram comment.

Booker responded, telling the Celtics veteran, “you can’t guard me.”

Booker became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game,  the most scored ever at the TD Garden.

Stars, studs and duds: Booker 'in one of those zones' in 70-point game

Stars, studs and duds: Booker 'in one of those zones' in 70-point game

BOSTON – Al Horford knew Devin Booker was having a big game, but it wasn’t until the third quarter was over and he looked up saw Booker already had 42 points.

“When I looked up and saw (his points total) … it’s just impressive.”

Booker would finish with a franchise-record 70 points against the Celtics, a ridiculously unheard of tally that still wasn’t enough as Boston came away with a 130-120 win.

The 6-foot-6 guard became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game.

While Celtics players were quick to praise Booker for his historic performance, there were a few Celtics who were clearly bothered by Suns coach Earl Watson having his team commit fouls late in the game in order to get the ball back so Booker could have more shots at the franchise record.

“It was weird what they were doing,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “I’ve never seen anything like that. It is what it is. I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15, but I mean it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him the most points possible. Hat off to him (Booker). He played a hell of a game.”

That said, it wasn’t like the Celtics were willing to give him all those points.

“No matter who we tried on him, what we tried on him, he was in one of those zones in a rhythm,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He was in that rhythm early in the game, and we didn’t do a very good job of breaking that rhythm.”

Putting Booker’s performance in words let alone perspective, was not easy – not even for Booker.

“It’s a zone that’s kind of hard to explain,” he said. “I’ve been in those zones before but never to this extent. It’s hard to explain … when you’re in the gym alone. You’re taking shots and making them consecutively. That’s what it starts feeling like for me. Felt comfortable, at my home gym draining.”

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

 

STARS

Devin Booker

It was a historic night for the second-year guard, setting a Suns franchise record with 70 points on 21-for-40 shooting. The 70 points were also the most scored at the TD Garden, with Booker becoming only the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game.

Isaiah Thomas

Very efficient game for Thomas who is steadily getting his groove back after missing a couple games with a knee injury. He led the Celtics with 34 points on 10-for-20 shooting along with dishing out seven assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

The Celtics got another strong game from Horford who had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double this season. He also dished out six assists.

Gerald Green

The Celtics hit a bit of a scoring slump in the first half, but there was Green to the rescue. He finished with 15 points off the bench, all of which came in the first half.

Alex Len

One of the players besides Booker to make somewhat of an impact for Phoenix, Len finished with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting with six rebounds and two blocked shots.

Jae Crowder

He had 13 points and 10 rebounds, giving him his eighth double-double this season, while shooting 4-for-8 from the field.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

Missing Avery Bradley was obviously a factor in Devin Booker’s big night for Phoenix. Boston reverted back to play way too casual defensively and Booker made them pay all night long. The Celtics have to correct this before it costs to something more than pride; but potentially being what winds up getting them eliminated from the playoffs.