Without All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is going to have to rely on other guys for veteran leadership in his backcourt.
The Celtics’ longest-tenured member Marcus Smart will certainly be taking on more responsibility on both ends of the floor. However, when Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge inked 11-year scorer Jeff Teague to a 1-year deal to play for Boston it finally granted Stevens the type of player he’s yearned for years as an NBA head coach – an instant offense kind of secondary scorer, who could help keep an opponent at bay while his starters took a breather.
Teague personified that role in the Celtics’ 108-99 loss against the 76ers Tuesday night. After checking in midway through the opening frame, Jeff got it going in the second quarter when he drained back-to-back 3-pointers in less than one minute – which trimmed the Sixers’ first double-digit lead of the night down to eight (33-25).
Brad Stevens On Jeff Teague’s Impact Off The Bench: ‘We Looked The Most Fluid Offensively When Jeff Was In The Game’
Then, just before the half, Jeff connected on his third straight – which kicked off a 7-2 run to end the half and pulled Boston to within six (50-44).
“He got us several baskets that were just easy, like pushing the ball up the floor; doesn’t look like he’s breaking a sweat,” Stevens explained. “Sometimes it was him, sometimes it was others. But really, in the first 30 minutes, I felt like that was the only time the ball was moving the way it needs to – it was when he was in the game. We need to improve when he’s not. So, we need to make sure we’re getting better off of the film and off of today’s game.
“I thought the first group had some moments at the start of each half but we looked the most fluid offensively when Jeff was in the game.”
Jeff Teague On Boston Celtics’ First Preseason Matchup: ‘As We Get Another One Under Our Belt, We’ll Be OK’
Teague was without-question Stevens’ most efficient scorer in the Celtics’ first preseason tuneup Tuesday – he led with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-9 attempts, including a perfect 4-of-4 from deep in 19 minutes.
Still, at 32, Jeff has been in the NBA long enough to know the Celtics are a long road away from reaching their full potential. However, Teague is still confident that he and his teammates will soon adapt to one another; and that the chemistry will work itself out.
“You saw tonight there’s a little adjustment period that we need,” Teague said Tuesday night. “Obviously, we can get a lot better but we did a little better in the second half being cohesive and being a tight unit. In the first half, we struggled, but I think as we get another one under our belt, we’ll be OK.”
The Celtics’ second and final preseason matchup is against the Brooklyn Nets Friday night at TD Garden.