ORLANDO, Fla. — Celtics coach Brad Stevens was frustrated with his team’s defense in its preseason opener Sunday, but he found the effort in Friday’s 100-75 exhibition win over the Magic more palatable.
“Ball pressure has been our No. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 thing that we’ve been emphasizing and I thought our guys did a really good job of that tonight,” he said. “They were locked in on how to guard.”
Orlando shot just 31.3 percent overall and 19.4 percent on 3-pointers, and it committed 21 turnovers.
Jayson Tatum had 15 points to lead the Celtics and Marcus Smart added 14. Jaylen Brown had 11 points and 7 rebounds. Point guard Kemba Walker sat out because of a sore left knee. Here are some observations from the game.
■ Walker and Stevens reiterated that Walker’s sore knee is not a concern, and that Walker should be able to return to the court Saturday.
“Just a little bit sore,” Walker said. “That’s it. I’m good. Just precautionary. Nothing serious at all.”
■ Smart replaced Walker in the starting lineup and was joined by Daniel Theis, who missed the Hornets game with an adductor strain. Stevens was critical of his team’s defense in the Charlotte game, and it probably helped having the team’s best interior defender and best backcourt defender to change the tone at the start.
Orlando started the game 0 for 5 with three turnovers and was held scoreless for the opening four minutes. And it hardly got better from there, as the margin swelled to 21-2 midway through the quarter and the Magic were never a threat again.
“That’s the team we’ve got to be,” Smart said. “We know it’s hard. Every night is probably not going to be perfect. But our effort has always got to be there.”
■ While Theis is not as athletic as, say, Robert Williams, Stevens hinted before the game at what he brings that some of the younger Celtics might not just yet.
“I think the biggest thing is he knows what’s going on both sides of the floor,” Stevens said.
Williams sometimes struggles with positioning, and that is rarely an issue for Theis.
“Theis was big out there,” Tatum said. “We just had a really good start.”
■ Smart, who turned into a respectable 3-point shooter last season, started the game by hitting two in the first 94 seconds. He made 4 of 5 in the first half, and the most eye-opening one was the last one, when he fired up an offering from the left corner, then swiveled toward the Magic bench and started jogging upcourt before the ball had even swished through the net.
It appeared to be an instance of Stephen Curry-level confidence, but Smart claims that he actually spun to avoid stepping on the foot of his defender, which could have put him in danger of an ankle sprain.
“To be honest I didn’t know the ball went in until I saw them take the ball out,” Smart said. “I turned away and never looked back.”
■ Romeo Langford made his Celtics debut. The 14th overall pick of June’s draft missed summer league with a thumb injury and sat out the preseason opener with a groin injury. He checked in midway through the third quarter and almost immediately carved through the lane for a layup. He got his NBA welcome on defense a few moments later, however, as Aaron Gordon backed him down for an easy basket.
Langford finished with 2 points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.
■ The 6-foot-9-inch, 220-pound Gordon was probably glad to see the 19-year-old guarding him at that moment. He was 0 for 13 before getting the easy chance.
■ Even though Walker did not play, he was quite engaged. It seemed the All-Star point guard was standing near the bench more than anyone other than Stevens, barking instruction, encouragement, and praise.
■ In Boston last Sunday, the first chants for the 7-5 center Tacko Fall poured down with eight minutes left in the second quarter. The wait was a bit longer in Orlando, as the “We want Tacko” calls started with three minutes to play before halftime.
Fall played collegiately at nearby Central Florida. The chants grew in volume and intensity as the game progressed.
Stevens said that he planned a scripted scene in which Fall would drop his warm-up gear at Stevens’s feet at the five-minute mark and check himself into the game.
Fall appeared to have some cold feet about that plan, though, and ultimately Stevens sent Tatum and Smart to all but pull him out of his chair.
“He was like, ‘No, Coach told me to go in at exactly the five-minute mark,’ ” Smart said. “And Jayson was like, ‘He just told me to come get you so get up, let’s go.’ I was like, ‘Man, come on, get up. Everybody’s talking Tacko. We ain’t Tacko. That’s you.’”
■ NBA players have become increasingly reluctant to fire up long 3-point attempts before the end-of-quarter buzzers, mostly because they do not want to damage their shooting percentages. It’s understandable, but it’s also too bad, because end-of-quarter heaves are fun.
Anyway, rookie guard Carsen Edwards willingly fired one up at the end of the first quarter. It missed, but kudos to him.
■ Magic All-Star Nikola Vucevic sat out with a sprained left ankle.