LAS VEGAS — The Celtics’ plans for Yam Madar beyond Summer League are unclear. But last week the Israeli point guard spoke confidently about his chances of signing a contract with Boston, even if the situation will not be totally in his control.
On Sunday afternoon, though, Madar often appeared to be one of the better players on the court in limited action as the Celtics grabbed an 85-83 win over the Hawks in the Las Vegas Summer League.
He had 8 points and 2 assists in 16 minutes, 47 seconds. But his impact went beyond that. When the rookie checked in midway through the first quarter, a group of Celtics starters that included four returning players already trailed, 10-0. Then Madar gave Boston a jolt of energy and sparked a 17-2 surge.
“I was very happy with Yam,” Celtics Summer League coach Joe Mazzulla said. “I thought he did a great job of changing the game with his ball pressure. Last week in training camp was his first time playing and he had some growing pains. He did a great job consequently over the last two days and he really showed that in the game today. We’ll be looking for him to bring that defensive pressure, and down the offensive end get a few more touches, maybe a little more confidence and make plays for others.”
Really nice touch along the baseline from Yam Madar: pic.twitter.com/TxpesnpTa0— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) August 8, 2021
Madar was not on the court for the game’s final few minutes, however, as Boston’s regulars helped spark a late comeback.
The Hawks led, 78-77, with just over a minute left when Aaron Nesmith missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer. Atlanta’s Jalen Johnson then connected on a 3 at the other end with 53.4 seconds to play to stretch the lead to 4.
But Payton Pritchard answered with a 3-pointer after a timeout to pull the Celtics back within 81-80, and then Nesmith stole an inbounds pass and the Celtics pushed upcourt as Pritchard found Romeo Langford for a 3-pointer that gave Boston an 83-81 lead with 11.5 seconds left. After a timeout, rookie Juhann Begarin came up with a steal to help finish off the Hawks.
“The ability for those guys to be on the same page, for them to trust each other and to just play the right way, good things happen,” Mazzulla said.
Pritchard had 23 points and Carsen Edwards added 17 for Boston. The Celtics forced 18 turnovers in the 40-minute game. While the strong finish was encouraging, it might not even have reached that point without Madar’s powerful first half.
Boston’s starters were 0 for 8 from the field when Madar checked in and quickly shifted the game’s tenor. He inbounded the ball from the baseline and then got the ball right back for a layup, he flipped a daring pass on a drive that ultimately led to a Sam Hauser 3-pointer, and he drilled a catch-and-shoot jumper from the right baseline.
“Nothing really going through my mind in those situations, just kind of play the game,” Madar said. “I think it was the first time, so it was exciting. But at the end of the day, just a game, and I just need to be prepared for opportunity that comes.”
Madar, whose rail-thin frame could be an issue if he makes the jump to the NBA this year, did not look out of place on defense, either. He scuffled and forced a jump ball , came up with a steal, and generally provided consistent ball pressure.
Later in the quarter he was joined by Begarin, who drilled a pair of 3-pointers from the right arc, one on a pass from Madar, helping finish off the 17-2 Boston run after the messy start.
“[Madar] turned it around for us with his energy,” Pritchard said. “Hit some tough shots, but also his defense, getting hands on balls. We started off the game down, 10-0, and he came in and brought that energy, that activeness, being active, and it just kind of carried over for all of us … I thought he did an unbelievable job his first time.”
Early in the second quarter Madar drove and found Pritchard for an open 3-pointer before spinning through the lane and hitting a jumper from the elbow.
Payton Pritchard showing off his range from the logo: pic.twitter.com/7iixzo8DD3— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) August 8, 2021
Mazzulla said he was especially encouraged by Madar’s performance because he struggled in the Celtics’ second Summer League practice last week. That was his first small taste of the NBA, but he shook off the minor setback quickly.
“After Wednesday’s practice he did a tremendous job the rest of the week making good reads,” Mazzulla said. “And tonight, I thought he did the same thing.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.