by Danny Jaillet
HARTFORD, Conn. — The Celtics traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to face the New York Knicks on Saturday night for their third preseason game. Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce both celebrated birthdays, but their celebrations were dampened a bit as the Celtics lost 98-95 in overtime. Basketball is a team game, and individual performances are often overlooked. As I was watching the game however, it was hard to overlook the performance of rookie Jared Sullinger.
The rookie from Ohio State opened eyes during the Summer League in July, and his performance on Saturday night confirmed the notion that he is a force to be reckoned with. In a little over 25 minutes of play, he notched 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. His 14 points led all Celtics scorers. He came off the bench for the second half, and played well while he was on the court. One of the things I noticed while watching the game is his rebounding ability. He had an uncanny knack of obtaining position under the basket, and grabbing rebounds that came his way. His rebound totals broke down to four offensive rebounds and three defensive rebounds. On top of that, he was a dominant presence inside.
Offensively, he performed very well. His primary position on the court was inside the paint, where he would be given the ball. His defender was much smaller than he was, and Sullinger used that to his advantage, getting points close to the basket. One of the big themes that I saw in his game was physicality. He looked like a “man among boys” as at 6-9 and 260 pounds, he was very hard to guard.
The only bad part about his performance as I saw it last night was that he fouled out. As mentioned before, he played a very physical style of basketball and in this case, it hurt him. However, announcer Donny Marshall said something to the effect of “Since Sullinger is playing physical with his defender, who is smaller than him, fouls are going to be called. When he faces up against a bigger defender who is physical, those types of fouls are not going to be called as often.”
Even with the foul trouble, Sullinger made a big impact in yesterday’s game. He showed that he is ready to face the challenge of the NBA. Many, both in the league and as fans will be keeping an eye on him and watching how he develops as the season progresses.