The Boston Celtics’ world tour hit an early snag when Gang Green lost its preseason opener, 97-91, to Turkish pro team Fenerbahce Ulker.
Fenerbahce Ulker, one of Europe’s top club teams, scored 23 points off 25 Boston turnovers and held the Celtics to 18 points in the second quarter. Bo McCalebb, regarded as one of the best point guards in the Euroleague, more than held his own in his head-to-head battle with Boston All-Star guard Rajon Rondo. McCalebb sliced the Celtics defense all game, splitting double teams and creating offense off the drive-and-kick. He finished with 21 points, grabbed four rebounds, and had five assists.
“The reason I played good tonight is not that the game was televised in the States and it was not who was playing against me, Rajon Rondo. When I play against any good player I try to give my best,” said McCalebb, who played college ball at the University of New Orleans. “It’s not personal. And it was a really special night for us after playing a very hard game in the Turkish Cup a day before against Galatasaray Medical Park. We are happy to give our fans a very exciting win.”
McCalebb’s backcourt teammate, Romain Sato, led all scorers with 24 points, including a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for the European club. Bojan Bogdanovic (drafted by the Brooklyn Nets) netted 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
Some new faces had decent debuts for the Celtics. Rookie forward Jared Sullinger led the Cs with 16 points and eight rebounds. Forward Jeff Green also had 16 points and looked very comfortable despite missing all of last season due to heart surgery. Jason Terry, wearing No. 4 in Celtic green, scored 12 points off the bench on 4-for-7 shooting. Courtney Lee started the game at shooting guard in place of Avery Bradley.
After trailing 18-8 early, the Celtics went on a 19-8 run — capped by Rondo’s 3-pointer at the buzzer — to take a 27-26 lead. But that lead quickly evaporated as Bojan Bogdanovic (drafted by the Brooklyn Nets) knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to push Fenerbahce ahead. The home team took a 55-45 lead at halftime and never trailed in the second half as Celtics head coach Doc Rivers rested starters Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rondo. Rondo is already in midseason form, scoring 13 points and dishing out nine assists.
The Celtics have been in Istanbul for a week, and Garnett feels the experience can only help bond the team.
“We are a family in a village, we can look at it like that. When we hit that floor or go outside of these walls, we take care of each other,” said Garnett, now entering his sixth season as a Celtic. “So we’re looking for those kinds of things when we come out of Turkey. Not just being your teammate, but being your brother.”