ilkan Karaman, Brandon Bass

Celtics drop NBA’s preseason opener to Turkish team 97-91

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Don’t read anything into the final score.

Yes, the Celtics dropped their preseason opener 97-91 to Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul, Turkey. No, at times it was not really pretty — stretches of weak rebounding, too many turnovers and an offense that had fits and starts — but what do you expect in your first preseason game?

Fenerbahce Ulker looked like a team that had been playing competitive games already — they were more fit, their passing was more crisp, and they played with a sense of urgency. This was a big game for them at home.

And they had Bo McCalebb, one of the best international point guards (an American by birth) slashing into the Celtics defense almost at will. That had to grate on Doc Rivers. Combine him with Romain Sato (the former Xavier player who seemed to hit everything) and the two combined for 45 points.

For Boston, this wasn’t about a win, it was about learning about young players.

Two stood out — Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger. Each had 16 points (Boston’s high). It was great to see Green out on the floor, running and attacking the glass after he had missed a season due to heart surgery. His athleticism off the bench will be a boost for Boston this season (compared to, say, Marquis Daniels in years past). Sullinger continues to show a nose for rebounds and just an ability to score around the basket.

Of the regulars, Rajon Rondo looked best, looking like a leader. He had 13 points and nine assists.

Fenerbahce Ulker led pretty much the entire game, taking advantage of Celtics misses and pushing the pace before the Celtics could set their defense. In addition, the kind of off-the-ball movement and backdoor cuts European teams do out of habit made this a tough first preseason game for the Celtics. This was not an opponent who fell into Boston’s comfort zone.

So don’t read much into it. It looked like a first preseason game.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: