There were plenty of positives to take away from the Boston Celtics' 97-91 loss to Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Bo McCalebb served as a legitimate floor general for Fenerbahce all night, routinely splitting Boston's pick-and-roll defense and slicing into the paint to create his own offense and find his teammates. He finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists, and received the most support from Romain Sato, who scored a game-high 24 points -- knocking down all four of his 3-point field-goal attempts. Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green paced the Celtics, finishing with 16 points apiece. Sullinger chipped in eight rebounds, as he flirted with a double-double in his first NBA action. Jason Terry delivered on his promise of more offense off the bench, as he contributed 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Rajon Rondo, as expected, was Boston's most electric starter, putting in 13 points to go along with 9 assists.
C'S START SLOW, CAN'T CRAWL BACK: Despite playing its fourth game in four nights, Fenerbahce came out and set the tone and pace early, opening up a double-digit lead less than seven minutes in. The Celtics, despite shooting 50 percent for the game, never established a consistent offensive rhythm, and were routinely plagued by poor pick-and-roll defense and an unhealthy wealth of turnovers. Boston forked the ball over a whopping 25 times, good for 23 Fenerbahce points. The C's closed the gap to three (94-91) with just over a minute to go, but Sato came back with a right corner 3-pointer that helped seal things for Fenerbahce.
STARTERS SEE LIMITED MINUTES: As expected, Doc Rivers elected to play the majority of his starters fewer minutes than usual, particularly Kevin Garnett, who played just 15 minutes and put in 6 points and 4 rebounds. Brandon Bass also played fewer than 20 minutes (19), while Paul Pierce finished with 26 minutes and Rondo played the most (30) out of the first five. Newcomer Courtney Lee chipped in 27 minutes of his own, but never really got going, as Rivers chose to start Jason Terry over him in the second half.
SULLINGER IMPRESSES: Playing the most minutes of any rookie (26), Sullinger solidified his presence in the paint early and maintained it over the course of the whole game. Showing the same knack for the ball that he displayed during summer league, Sullinger repeatedly crashed the glass, and carved out position in the lane to take advantage of some nice feeds from his teammates. Perhaps most importantly, Sullinger never looked rattled, displaying an ease and a comfort that helped him contribute 8 points and 5 rebounds in the first half, and come back with 8 more points and 3 more rebounds over the final 24 minutes.
GREEN LOOKS STRONG IN RETURN: In his first NBA action in over a year, Jeff Green made a triumphant return to the court, putting in 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, displaying the versatility that has so many excited about his presence on this year's team. While fairly quiet through the first three quarters (5 points, 1 rebound), Green was far more assertive in the final frame, as Boston tried to close the gap and steal a win. He put in 11 points over the final 12 minutes, serving as a go-to guy of sorts for the Celtics, as he shared the floor with a host of rookies.
MILICIC GETS MINUTES: Doc Rivers opted to bring recently acquired big man Darko Milicic off the bench first. While he struggled at times with his pick-and-roll coverage, Milicic was consistently active, even tipping out an offensive rebound from a seated position after he fell to the floor that led to a Jeff Green follow-up dunk. The backup center position is one the Celtics need to solidify, and Milicic is certainly in the conversation. This was a nice first step as Rivers begins to make his evaluations. Milicic finished with 2 points and 6 rebounds in 16 minutes.
WHAT IT MEANS: Being their first preseason game, the C's won't lose too much sleep over this result. Rivers did what he wanted to do: got his starting five some floor time and allowed some of his important bench pieces (Green, Terry, Sullinger) to garner more minutes and begin to develop their respective rhythms. Boston won't judge the success of its preseason on wins and losses, opting instead to tinker with the many tools it has at its disposal, hopefully determining who fits best in which role.