Celts, Zion remain sizzling to start preseason

Celts, Zion remain sizzling to start preseason



Preseason numbers often mean almost nothing. Rotations are unusual, starters rarely play much, and few if any teams are putting a premium on winning games.

As such, it’s tough to glean much from exhibition stats.

But what the Boston Celtics and New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson — the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — have been doing so far in the preseason certainly stands out.

The Celtics are 3-0 after beating Cleveland on Sunday — and have put together a huge run in all three of those games. The latest was a 50-17 spurt against the Cavaliers, a game that was close for most of the first quarter before Boston built what eventually became a 54-point lead.

Boston’s other big runs of note in this preseason were a 41-17 stretch last Sunday against Charlotte, and opening the game with a 29-4 burst at Orlando on Friday. On top of the 50-17 run against the Cavs, they added a 26-8 run in the fourth quarter as well.

No matter who the Celtics have on the court, defense has been the constant. Boston is holding opponents to 36.5% shooting through the first three exhibitions, 25.7% from 3-point range.

“That’s a tied-together group on that end of the court,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

And while 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall has quickly become a fan favorite in Boston — yes, Stevens is aware of the chants where fans are clamoring for him to play more — the numbers are worth noting as well.

“Everyone is flying under the radar,” Stevens said Sunday. “Except Tacko.”

When it comes to New Orleans, Williamson isn’t flying under anything.

Flying over things is more like it.

The Pelicans are 4-0 in the preseason after winning in San Antonio on Sunday, with Williamson finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds. He’s shot 29 for 36 from the floor in his last three games, and is averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds on 71% shooting — all in about 27 minutes per game.

CELTICS 118, CAVALIERS 72

Max Strus scored 14 points and Boston finished with six players in double figures.

Kemba Walker returned from a one-game absence with knee soreness and scored 12 points in 15 1/2 minutes, going 3 for 3 from 3-point range. The Celtics held the Cavaliers to 33% shooting, 18% on 3-point tries, and forced 29 turnovers.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 12 for Cleveland, which played without Kevin Love (rest) and Tristan Thompson (right groin soreness). Cavs starters Collin Sexton, Matthew Dellavedova and Cedi Osman combined to shoot 3 for 24 and score eight points in 67 minutes.

PELICANS 123, SPURS 114

Williamson’s 22 points led seven New Orleans players in double figures on the way to beating San Antonio.

CLIPPERS 118, MELBOURNE UNITED 100

Kawhi Leonard and Rodney McGruder sat out for the Los Angeles Clippers, who got 22 points from Montrezl Harrell and 16 points from Lou Williams.

BUCKS 115, WIZARDS 108

Khris Middleton had 22 points and nine rebounds while Sterling Brown and Ersan Ilyasova scored 18 points apiece for Milwaukee.

Reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (illness) did not play for the Bucks (4-0).

BULLS 105, RAPTORS 91

Zach LaVine hit four 3-pointers and finished with 26 points and Lauri Markkanen had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Chicago.

76ERS 126, MAGIC 94

Joel Embiid had 15 points and nine rebounds and Tobias Harris scored 14 points for Philadelphia. Josh Richardson, acquired as part of the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Miami in July, had 13 points, five assists and five steals for the 76ers (3-0).


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