Celtics

Ante Zizic: 'I expect a little bit more from myself'

Ante Zizic: 'I expect a little bit more from myself'

LAS VEGAS – The early returns on Ante Zizic didn’t look all that promising.

“He can play better than he has the first two games,” Austin Ainge, the Celtics director of player personnel, told CSNNE.com last week. “He’s done some good things but he’ll play better.”

And that faith was validated on Sunday as Zizic’s strong game was among the many factors that contributed to Boston’s 70-64 win over Portland in summer league action.

Zizic had a near double-double, finishing with nine points and 11 rebounds.

“Today I think I play really good,” Zizic said.

Following the win, Zizic acknowledged it’s going to take him a little bit of time to adjust to the NBA game.

“Like I say, I need to adjust, a little bit of time. This is my fifth game here, and also … I expect a little bit more from myself,” he said.

While the execution hasn’t always been there for Zizic, it’s not due to a lack of effort.

He came to the league with the reputation of being a physical banger.

Five summer league games into his pro career with the Celtics, playing with a high level of physicality has indeed been one of the constants for this 20-year-old.

“He plays hard and he’s physical,” Ainge said. “Those are his strengths.”

But he can do more than bang on bodies, for sure.

In his short time with the Celtics, he has shown a certain comfort level while shooting a left or right-handed, over-the-shoulder hook shot in the lane.

Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty, who is coaching Boston’s Las Vegas summer league team, said he went into tonight’s game wanting to get Zizic more involved.

“Getting him rolling to the basket, post-ups, so he’s not just setting screens,” McCarty said. “I think it really helped him out.”

And that in turn helped the Celtics (2-0) remain undefeated with one more game – against Philadelphia on Tuesday – before teams are seeded for the double-elimination portion of the Vegas summer league.

Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown can still hear the murmurs from draft night two years ago shortly after his name was called. 

It was the pinnacle for every kid who has ever dreamed of being an NBA player, and yet Brown’s moment of great adulation from fans became a dream deferred with a mix of cheers and jeers from Celtics fans who felt the team would have been better off packaging the No. 3 pick used on Brown to acquire a more proven talent. 

That would serve as one of the many boulder-sized chips on Brown’s shoulders that has brought him to where he is now, as one of the biggest breakout performers in the playoffs. 

He is coming off a career-high 30 points in Boston’s 120-106 win, making the 21-year-old the youngest player in Celtics history to score 30 or more in a playoff game.

Brown comes into Friday night’s Game 3 matchup leading the Celtics (2-0 in best-of-seven series) averaging a team-high 25 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. 

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What Brown is doing now is a direct reflection of the progress made in his overall game from where it was a year ago, even if it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to him.

“To be honest, I don’t even pay attention to it. I’ve just been playing basketball all year,” Brown said following Tuesday’s win. “My teammates help me out a lot by finding me. Terry (Rozier) found me a lot throughout the course of the game and I was able to take some shots. Ultimately, we just want to win games, so that’s the only thing that we are concerned with. We are confident as ever. Teams have been writing us off all year and we just keep proving people wrong, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Proving folks wrong is part of the narrative that is Brown’s story. 

When he came into the NBA, folks loved his athleticism. But his jumper, ball-handling and defensive awareness needed work. There’s an expectation that with time and experience, young players will get better. But what we’ve seen in Brown is more than just growth. It’s the byproduct of a young man who's extremely motivated to do more than just get better. 

He wants to be the best player on the floor, every minute he’s out there. While it is a goal that he’ll fall short of achieving, Brown is developing into a major, high-impact player before our very eyes. 

“Well I think Jaylen loves the moment,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I think he really appreciated the opportunity like to – to compete on this stage and at this level and we’ve seen him against the better teams in the league all year be able to really raise his level in some of the biggest games. And, you know, I think that obviously he’s gaining more experience by the minute and he – he lived quite a lot last year. And so, he’s one of our more experienced guys in some ways in this setting.”

It is a setting Brown has always felt that it was a matter of when, not if, he would be here. And while he has certainly become a fan favorite, he knows he still has a few skeptics out there.

“I love it. I thrive off it,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “When people say this, say that, tell you what you’re gonna do, tell you how successful you are going to be, I smile and keep it moving.”

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Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

BOSTON – When this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series began, there were legitimate questions about how Boston’s youthful backcourt tandem of Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown would hold up against the Bucks and their more experienced tandem led by Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell.

Two games and two Celtics wins later, this hasn’t even been marginally close with Boston’s 1-2 backcourt punch delivering one big shot after another which has been among the keys to Boston taking a 2-0 series lead as Games 3 and 4 shift to Milwaukee.

In two games, Rozier and Brown have outscored Milwaukee’s starting backcourt 96-25.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens believes those numbers are a bit skewed because they don’t take into account the scoring of Khris Middleton whom Stevens considers as being part of the Milwaukee backcourt.

Ok, coach.

Add Middleton’s 56 points scored in the first two games and that brings the Bucks’ perimeter point total up to 81.

“We’re trying a lot of different bodies on Middleton,” Stevens said. “Bledsoe’s a handful because of his ability to drive the ball and knock down shots off screens. And Snell as always been a guy that’s been able to make open shots.”

But if you’re gonna factor in Middleton’s points for Milwaukee, you have to throw in Jayson Tatum’s 23 points in two games which would bring the final tally to 122-81, a staggering lopsided figure as well. 

Stevens knows all too well that the road for his perimeter players and his entire team for that matter, will only get rougher in time.

“We know we have our hands full and our guys are preparing ever game like that’s the case,” Stevens said.

And even with the lopsided nature of the scoring thus far from the starting perimeter players by Boston, there’s still a sense that some Bucks – ok, one Bucks player – isn’t quite ready to put some respect on what the Celtics were able to do perimeter-wise in Games 1 and 2.

Bledsoe, who is averaging 10.5 points in this series, was asked about Rozier’s play after two games which in addition to averaging 23.0 points also includes him failing to turn the ball over once in more than 78 minutes of action.

“Who?” was Bledsoe’s initial responded which was followed by, “I don’t even know who the (expletive) that is.”

Stevens was aware of Bledsoe’s comments about Rozier but made it clear that he was not going to get into anything that might he constructed as a war of words.

“I heard that,” said Stevens about the comments in regards to Rozier before adding, “Our team is just focused on Game 3.”

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