Boston Celtics Win Las Vegas Summer League Opener, Avoid Fear, Loathing

Shane O'Halloran@@scohalloranContributor IIIJuly 16, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 20:  JaJuan Johnson #25 of the Purdue Boilermakers rebounds against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams n the first half during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the United Center on March 20, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Virginia Commonwealth won 94-76 in regulation. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With an 87-69 victory over the Atlanta Hawks to begin their Las Vegas Summer League campaign, the Boston Celtics are hoping that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there—or at least not what happens on the court.

The C’s were able to overcome a cold shooting start to take an 18-point lead into halftime and never surrendered it thereafter. A pesky Boston defense forced 14 turnovers over the 40-minute contest and held its opponent to 36.1 percent shooting.


The Dynamic Duo from Purdue-o?

E’Twaun Moore continued to show his aggressive, scoring-minded brand of point guard play. He cruised to a nine-point, two-assist day and ran several effective fast breaks.

Fellow former Boilermaker JaJuan Johnson put in a much more uneven performance, however.

The lanky jump shooter got the starting nod at center but couldn’t seem to get out of his own way Monday afternoon. 

After spending much of the early going throwing up contested turnaround jumpers, Johnson committed a pair of mental errors early in the second half. First, as the ball handler on a two-on-one fast break, Johnson dished the ball off to E’Twaun Moore as the blocking foul was whistled, instead of throwing up a continuation lay up.

That meant that instead of free throws, the Celtics had the ball side out. As Dionte Christmas looked to get the ball in, an open Johnson inexplicably looked away from the inbounder and cut to the hoop, resulting in a turnover on the pass.

He did bounce back somewhat in the fourth quarter, hustling for loose balls and showing a renewed commitment to attacking the lane.

If Johnson can make his catches closer to the hoop, his field goal percentage should improve. But as it stands now, he doesn’t look strong enough to force his way into good position or quick enough to consistently create a shot off the dribble.

That’s a dangerous no-man’s land for an NBA big man.


Slow Down, Big Fella

Fab Melo had some excellent moments on Monday afternoon and looks to be comfortable in the Celtics’ defensive system. He grabbed two offensive rebounds and made a pretty touch pass to set Sean Williams up for an emphatic two-handed flush.

However, the Brazilian seven-footer could stand to slow his game down just a little bit in order to avoid unnecessary fouls and the occasional travelling call in the post.

The perfect balance between cerebral and frenetic can be tough to find for young players, as Chris Webber recently pointed out during a Summer League broadcast. It should come as no surprise, then, that a relative basketball ingénue like Melo would press a bit in his first professional action.


Jared Sullinger, Immovable Object

Sullinger continues to show exceptional spatial awareness, using his considerable strength to compensate for his lack of vertical athleticism.

On the offensive side, that acuity netted him eight free-throw attempts of which he made good on seven. Likewise, his positioning on the offensive glass consistently drew foul calls or kept possessions alive.

He did accumulate five fouls over 24:36 of playing time, which is worth noting as the former All-American battles with superior leapers. Sullinger will need to continue focusing on pushing his man out of the paint, where his defensive skill set is more effective against size and athleticism.


Christmas Comes Early, Joseph Chips In

Twenty-six-year-old Temple grad and European pro player Dionte Christmas has made a strong case for his invitation to Celtics training camp, as he put in 11 points on 10 shots over 26:55.  The shooting guard was all over the court, also contributing five boards, two steals and two assists.

2012 second-round pick Kris Joseph tied for the team high with an efficient 14 points on 10 field goal attempts. He continues to show confidence in catch-and-shoot situations off of pin-down screens, the specialty of one recently departed Ray Allen.

If for no other reason than the Celtics could be hurting for outside shooting on the wings this season—with Avery Bradley and Jeff Green set for significant roles—Joseph should find his way into training camp this year.

You can catch all the Celtics Summer League Action on NBATV, including tomorrow's 10 p.m. EST contest against the Chicago Bulls.

Follow Shane on Twitter @scohalloran, and be sure to sound off in the comments section about the Celtics' Summer League squad.