The Celtics did not approach last night’s scrimmage like a practice session.
They checked into a hotel, had a team meal, went to TD Garden for a morning shootaround, and returned to be greeted by a national anthem singer and an enthusiastic crowd of invited guests and season ticket-holders.
“We basically did it like a regular game,’’ center Jermaine O’Neal said. “It really felt like a regular preseason game. It was the genius of Doc [Rivers] - that’s the first time I ever had an intrasquad scrimmage like that.’’
And coaches and players competed as if something were at stake during two 12-minute periods.
The contest went down to the final seconds, Avery Bradley hitting a buzzer-beating jumper to give the Green team a 52-51 win after E’Twaun Moore’s 3-pointer had given the White team the lead with 0.8 seconds left.
“That last shot was just a great shot,’’ Rivers said. “E’Twaun’s shot was a more impressive shot because he had to make a decision, shoot it or throw it to Ray [Allen].
“Most of the time, even though he’s open, most guys would throw it to Ray. And he didn’t hesitate. And that’s what I like about him - he can really shoot.’’
Moore is competing for a backup position in the backcourt.
“We had a nice play drawn up, they bit on it, I had an open shot, and just had to take it,’’ Moore said. “I was just taking what they were giving me. Having confidence can take you a long ways and I had confidence I could knock down a shot.’’
Rivers sat between the benches, the teams guided by assistants Armond Hill and Tyronn Lue, who called a combined five timeouts in the final 12 seconds.
“That’s how it’s been in practice every day, we’ve been all out,’’ O’Neal said. “The [coaches] did a good job teaching and really challenging guys, Doc really challenged us, a lot of scrimmaging and teaching, focusing in on the task and the schemes we have.
“No matter what, how many years you’ve been in the league, you still get to play in front of your fan base.’’
Chris Wilcox had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the White team.
“I was really happy with the second-unit guys, they kind of hung in there just long enough,’’ Rivers said. “Chris was really struggling at one point and he kind of gathered himself at some point.
“I liked the ending, the calls, all that stuff was good. You kind of see how people handle it, get over it, and, so, a lot of good things. I wasn’t sure about it but I’m glad we did this. Instead of an open practice, where you’re doing a 3-point contest, we actually got something out of this.’’
Moore has started to establish himself as a contender as a backup.
“It’s a wide-open spot,’’ Moore said. “So, if I keep working hard every day - you’re not going to given anything you have to earn it, so I’m going to keep working hard.’’
Said Rivers: “We tell them, we’re honest with guys. There’s a spot there and all of you aren’t going to play it. So, it’s been a competitive camp because of that.’’
Rivers on Greg Stiemsma: “I do like [Stiemsma] a lot. He hasn’t really separated himself or anything but I like some of the things he can do. I think we’ve got to convince him of the things he can do. He’s actually a terrific shooter from the elbows. He’s not a post player at all but he’s a terrific shot-blocker, I mean he blocks everything. We’ve got to get him comfortable when he’s open. It happens with veterans, when you’re playing with Paul [Pierce] and Ray you almost feel like you’re not worthy to take an open shot and I think he’s right there.’’
Said Stiemsma: “You have to stay within yourself and do what you can do. I’m trying to focus on that, not trying to step outside my comfort zone in terms what I can and can’t do. Hopefully, I’ll bring some toughness, some inside presence, shot-blocking presence.’’
Rivers said he considered O’Neal the most valuable player of preseason camp.
“You know what I really wanted to do is take a lot of reps,’’ O’Neal said of his workouts with Kevin Garnett. “I was a little nervous last year coming into this new situation.
“I know the city is looking to win a championship and you want to battle for your spot and end up getting hurt.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.