BOSTON (CBS) — A lack of contributing veterans hurt the Celtics last season. After one game of the 2020-21 season, things look much better on that front.
Danny Ainge brought in Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson this summer to add some veteran leadership to the team. Both players made an instant impact in their Boston debuts Wednesday night, as the Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks in dramatic fashion at TD Garden.
Teague did precisely what Ainge brought him in for on Wednesday, giving the Celtics a spark off the bench. The 32-year-old was an offensive dynamo in his 25 minutes, scoring 19 points. He was 4-for-4 from three-point range, and made a key defensive play in the final minute.
Jeff Teague is the first Celtics reserve to tally at least 19 points and four 3-point field goals in the team's season opener since Walter McCarty on Nov. 2, 1999
— Celtics Stats (@celtics_stats) December 24, 2020
The Celtics are going to need performances like that out of Teague while Kemba Walker remains on the shelf with his bad knee.
Thompson, brought in to provide a little more muscle and ferocity to the Boston frontcourt, was actually in the starting lineup on Wednesday night. Brad Stevens went big in his starting five with Thompson and Daniel Theis both in the lineup, which didn’t have the results that the head coach desired. Milwaukee’s transition offense took full advantage of the big lineup early in the game.
But Thompson, overall, played his part. He scored 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds over his 22 minutes of action, all while muscling up to Giannis on defense and dealing with Brook Lopez on the offensive end.
It was pretty good for his first action with his new team, and his first time playing in game action in nine months. Thompson said that opening night was a good building block for both himself and the team.
“It felt good to get back out there, especially with a team that has high expectations and a team that wants to compete and win a lot of ball games,” he said after the win. “Every game that goes by, myself and my teammates will get our rhythm. They’ll get to know me, I’ll get to know them more. We’ll keep building that relationship.”
Thompson was feeling so good that he was begging Stevens for more minutes.
“He wanted more. But I’ve learned over the years that my job is to smile and not really listen when a guy wants to play more and he’s on a minutes restriction,” said the head coach.
“But he did a good job. He fought for position,” Stevens continued on Thompson. “He guarded Giannis. It’s hard to not play for nine months and then have to guard Giannis and have to play against Lopez on the interior on the other end.”
While the new guys are getting used to their roles on a new team, their new teammates are also getting used to their playing styles. With limited training camp and just two preseason games, that is something that will be working itself out for the next few weeks.
But Boston’s young stars are excited to have some seasoned vets on their side.
“They’ve played in the league a long time, seeing stuff like this over and over and over again,” said Jaylen Brown, who led the way with 33 points for Boston. “And they helped our team so much; Tristian with his physicality and rebounding, Jeff his poise and vision, his playmaking. Controlling flow of the game is so essential.”
It’s just one game, but the veterans that Boston added in the offseason made an instant impact on opening night.