Milan - After nearly four months off, basketball is back, and the Celtics did not disappoint as they held off Olimpia Milano in a 124-91 win. Despite being an NBA preseason game, most of the Mediolanum Forum faithful were dressed in green and cheered the visiting team the entire night.
Isaiah Thomas led the way for Boston with 18 points and 4 assists and 3 steals in 21 minutes off the bench, while Avery Bradley was a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc to finish with 14 points. Jared Sullinger, who didn't see any time until the second quarter also added 14 points (7-of-10 shooting) and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes. David Lee in his Celtics debut was the star of the night contributing with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 21 minutes as a starter.
Evan Turner, who was nursing a knee injury, did not play and coach Brad Stevens elected to go with Marcus Smart (11 points, 6 assists), Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee and Tyler Zeller as starters in the Celtics preseason opener. They all chipped in with at least 9 points or more in the win.
"Our goal is just to get better and improve," Stevens said. "We'll be able to look at the film, and see how to do that. The number one thing that pleased me is our energy. I thought we played hard, I thought we made a lot of mistakes but that's to be expected."
Alessandro Gentile, whose rights are owned by the Houston Rockets, finished with 19 points for Olimpia Miliano. And Charles Jenekins added 14 and Robbie Hummel scored 12 in the loss.
The Celtics, who arrived in Milan, Italy on Saturday afternoon after beginning their training camp just a week before, are participating in the NBA's Global Games for the third time since 2007.
Milano's coach was impressed with how the C's played.
"Honestly it surprised me because I know they started their camp a few days ago," coach Jasmin Repesa said. "But they played really well together."
"The way they played, moved the ball, offense, defense... I'm really surprised they can play this sort of basketball after just a few days together."
Olimpia's only lead came in the opening minutes of the game when they scored first on a layup, the Celtics would go on to take over and go up 34-20 after one. The lead nearly doubled when the C's led 61-44 at intermission before the home team looked to go on a 9-0 run to start the second half to cut the deficit to 61-53.
Boston then when on to outscore Milano 38-18 to end the third quarter and push their lead back up to 28 and never looked back in front of a sell-out crowd of 11,388 basketball fans.
"I think as a team we played really well," Isaiah Thomas said. "There were times we didn't play so well especially at the start of the third quarter. But I think we should be really happy as it's the first time we play against another team.
"Obviously there were things missing, we're only at the start of our preseason, but overall I think we played a pretty good game."
The Celtics finished with five players in double-figures (14-of-15 overall who checked in scored) while shooting 56.1-percent from the field to go along with 31 assists on 46 made shots while forcing 15 steals and 21 Milano turnovers overall.
Next up on the Europe tour before heading home is Spain to take on Real Madrid on Thursday. Tip-off is at 3:00 PM EST on NBATV and CSNNE
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