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Monday, July 9, 2012
Rapid reaction: C's summer opener

By Chris Forsberg

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics opened summer league play with a 73-65 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday afternoon at the Amway Center:

Jared Sullinger, Boston's top selection in last month's draft, scored a game-high 20 points, 14 of which came after the intermission, and added six rebounds and a block over 24:08. Second-year guard E'Twaun Moore showed nice poise, running the point and battling a streaky jumper to chip in 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting, providing a couple key buckets down the stretch to help seal the win. Dionte Christmas was the only other Celtics player in double figures, chipping in 10 points and 10 rebounds in the team's most court time of the night (29:55). Second-year guard Reggie Jackson (19 points) paced the Thunder, while rookie Perry Jones III -- a player Boston passed on taking amidst his own draft day slide -- added 16 points. Lazar Hayward chipped in 18 points over 36:50 for the Thunder.

As if bracing them for the way things typically go for first-year players in Boston, the team's three rookie draft picks started the first game of the summer on the bench. Boston's starting 5 featured Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Sean Williams, Jamar Smith, and Christmas. The starters helped the Celtics open a 16-6 lead before the rookies got their chance.

Sullinger, Fab Melo, and Kris Joseph checked in together with 3:54 to play in the first quarter and each quickly showcased his calling card. Joseph hit a perimeter jumper, Melo had a nice block on help defense, and Sullinger put back a miss. Things got a little rockier from there for that group (and Oklahoma City rallied early in the second quarter as the rookies struggled), but all seemed more comfortable in the second half, particularly Sullinger as he shouldered the offensive load for Boston.

The Celtics brought a full contingent with them, at least from the front office/coaching perspective. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, assistant general manager Mike Zarren, head coach Doc Rivers, and assistant Armond Hill observed from the baseline. Ty Lue served as head coach, while Celtics assistants Jamie Young and Mike Longabardi assisted from the bench, along with director of player personnel Austin Ainge and video coordinator/assistant of basketball development Kwame Graves-Fulgham.

Midway through the third quarter, with the shot clock winding down, Moore heaved up a 30-foot prayer over OKC big man Cole Aldrich and banked it in. For a Boston team struggling to generate offense, it defied all logic.

In his first shift, Johnson grabbed six rebounds in six minutes (aided by Oklahoma City's inability to generate points). He finished with three points and eight rebounds over 24:14... Melo was extremely vocal during his time on the floor. He clearly needs work as a 1-on-1 defender (masked at times at college by playing in a zone at Syracuse), but the Celtics implore their bigs to be loud and call out instructions, which he did well... Melo also does a tremendous job blocking shots when coming with help defense. He had two of Boston's six total swats... Stephane Lasme was the only available player that did not dress (coach's decision)... The Celtics led 25-10 after the first quarter, only to let the Thunder make it a one-possession game with Boston on top 36-34 at the intermission... A late charge, aided by Sullinger's play in the paint, had the Celtics on top 51-50 going to the final quarter. The full box score is available, HERE.