PHILADELPHIA — The Celtics rolled to a 112-101 preseason win over the 76ers on Wednesday.
Payton Pritchard had 17 points and Sam Hauser and Svi Mykhailiuk added 15 apiece for Boston, which was without stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and James Harden also sat out to rest.
Observations from the game:
▪ The Celtics were eager to push the pace at every opportunity, regardless of what happened at the other end. After one Tyrese Maxey basket, for example, just six seconds passed between the ball going through the net and Dalano Banton taking a layup at the other end. It was blocked, but it was fast.
“It’s definitely an emphasis,” coach Joe Mazzulla said, “but we continued to slow down in the second half. So we have to find a better balance of creating that same pace in the second half as we do in the first. But that first quarter, our guys did a great job of playing intentionally and doing the stuff we want to do.”
Boston connected on 12 of 24 3-pointers in the first half, and plenty of them came on fast breaks or secondary breaks, including a very deep one from Kristaps Porzingis trailing the play from the top of the key.
“I took advantage of a couple of mismatches,” Porzingis said. “They kind of were mismatched in transition. I think the more I play with these guys, the more rhythm I get.”
Mazzulla said it’s important to find cross-matches at every opportunity. But there also has to be some structure to the speed.
“We just have to get to that as quickly as we can because defenses, once they get set, they’re really hard to score against,” he said. “We don’t want to play deep into the shot clock. But playing fast doesn’t mean playing undisciplined.”
▪ Porzingis, Derrick White, Al Horford and Jrue Holiday played just one half, so the 6-foot-9-inch Banton started the third quarter, but the point guard’s stint was quite brief.
Mazzulla removed him from the game just 26 seconds from the half when he failed to pursue a loose ball with urgency. He gave Banton an earful as he walked to the bench, and Banton returned to the game about nine minutes later and really hustled for the rest of the game.
Mazzulla candidly discussed the moment.
“Listen, there’s nothing more important than holding people to a high standard, especially when you believe in them and know they can be really, really good,” he said. “And we have a roster of 1-17 that I truly believe in. And there’s just a good learning opportunity. There was a loose ball there and I thought he could have gotten it. So credit to him that he was able to take coaching, and he responded really, really well. He’s got a chance to be a really good player in this league and I just loved the mentality that he brought to being coached and then responding. It’s super important . And I’m thankful that he allowed me to coach him.”
▪ Holiday came off the bench in his preseason debut last week, a decision that was both surprising but also accompanied by Mazzulla’s disclaimer not to read into it. Nevertheless, this game gave the Celtics a look at a Holiday/White starting backcourt that could be under consideration, and the absence of Brown and Tatum kept the ball in Holiday’s hands more.
Everything he does seems so under control. He got to the rim fairly easily in the first half and seemed pretty comfortable running the offense.
“I think it’s been going as good as possible,” Holiday said.
▪ Holiday was a first-team All-Defense pick last year and White was chosen for the second team, but for much of Wednesday night, White stole the show at that end and made life miserable for Maxey, who pummeled the Celtics in Boston last week. White twice blocked Maxey in transition during the first quarter.
In the second quarter he stripped him and soon after drew a push-off offensive foul, perhaps a sign of Maxey’s frustration. White added one more block in the first half, but it came against Patrick Beverley. He did not return for the third quarter, and it was no coincidence that Maxey began to soar after that.
“The way [White] pursues after a screen is amazing,” Holiday said.
▪ Hauser snapped out of his mild slump. He entered just 2 for 15 from beyond the arc this preseason but provided an early jolt with his playmaking Wednesday, finding Horford on the opening possession before a nice drive-and-kick led to a Porzingis 3-pointer. He was also 5 for 9 from beyond the arc.
▪ Mykhailiuk continues to show value as a catch-and-shoot force. He was 5 for 6 from the field and 3 for 4 from the 3-point line. His roster spot appears even more secure than it did a day ago.