When the Celtics and Thunder restarted their seasons by scrimmaging in Orlando on Friday, the atmosphere was certainly a bit unusual without fans screaming from their seats.
Television viewers could hear sneakers squeaking and players yelling. And Celtics coach Brad Stevens noticed that one voice stood above all the others in his team’s 98-84 loss.
“I thought the most interesting part—when you listen to [Thunder guard] Chris Paul, the whole place, there’s nobody else in here,” he said. “And Chris Paul dominated the game with his voice. That’s going to be critical as you move forward to be connected and communicate and doing those types of things. That was a great lesson for us.”
Stevens said the Celtics are generally a quiet team. That doesn’t always matter when it’s too loud to talk much anyway. But now that all voices can be heard, communication will be key.
“The collective voice of a group is going to be important,” Stevens said. “I think everyone is going to have to make sure that they do their best to communicate and help each other through.”
Boston’s starters played the first half and were outscored, 47-42. Center Enes Kanter led the Celtics with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics scrimmage the Suns on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Other observations from the game:
▪ All-Star point guard Kemba Walker sat out as he continued to work to regain strength in his left knee. It seems this is all part of Boston’s plan to be overly cautious with Walker as the team ramps up for the playoffs in about four weeks. Obviously the Celtics would prefer that he never had a knee issue, but it does not sound like there have been any recent setbacks. Walker took part in Thursday’s full practice.
▪ Stevens said before the game that he intended to use just eight players in the first half, and he stuck with that plan, with Brad Wanamaker, Kanter and Semi Ojeleye coming in as reserves. The starters each played more than 15 minutes in the 20-minute half. There’s value in getting one good, extended run.
“I think we’re not in as good as shape as we thought we were,” forward Jaylen Brown said.
▪ There weren’t a ton of highlight-reel plays for the Celtics, but Brown had a couple. He started the game with a spinning baseline fadeaway, then later added a tough pull-up in traffic off the dribble.
▪ Jayson Tatum was just 1 for 6 in his 18 minutes, and he missed a couple of them pretty badly. But Stevens never worries about whether shots go in, and he’s certainly not going to worry about shots going in at a scrimmage that follows a four-month layoff.
▪ Tremont Waters probably had the best stretch of the second-half crew, showing off his quick hands, uncanny vision and skillful passing. The rookie finished with 7 points, 5 assists and 3 steals.
▪ The coolest moment of the game came when Thunder forward Andre Roberson checked in during the third quarter. Roberson has been sidelined since rupturing his patella tendon in January 2018. He received a standing ovation from his teammates on Friday.
“He’s my brother, man,” said Kanter, one of Roberson’s former Thunder teammates. “I was just so happy.”
▪ Thunder big man Steven Adams has taken just 10 3-pointers in his seven-year career. So, naturally, he started Friday’s game by hoisting one from the right arc. Perhaps that was just to puzzle the Celtics, because Adams spent the rest of the first half feasting with dunk after dunk. At times, Boston’s communication was certainly not great, but that was to be expected. Also, the players knew that this game does not count.
“The good news is nobody gets stronger than Steven Adams,” Stevens said, “so that’s a good thing for us. "
▪ Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine called the game from an NBC Sports Boston studio, and if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t really have been able to tell. It was a smooth production, particularly given the circumstances.
▪ The Pacers announced that All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis will be leaving Orlando to seek treatment for plantar fasciitis. ESPN reported that there is a chance the condition could keep him out for the rest of the season. That could have important ramifications for the Celtics. Indiana and Philadelphia are currently tied for fifth place in the East, and the Celtics will most likely face the sixth-place finisher. Without Sabonis, it is likely that the Pacers would stumble a bit in the seeding games, making it more likely that they would face Boston in the opening round of the playoffs without their best player.
▪ Romeo Langford missed the game because of a gastrointestinal issue.