Zeller makes early impact in first game since December 29

Zeller makes early impact in first game since December 29

BOSTON – When Tyler Zeller got the call that he was going into the game – his first in nearly a month – he didn’t waste any time.

Minutes have been scarce for him this season, so he knew he had to make an impact if he wanted to stay out there.

Twenty-six seconds after checking in, he had a reverse lay-up.


And within the last 39 seconds of the first quarter he had another lay-up and a driving floater as part of an eight-points-in-five-minutes kind of start.

Zeller’s fast start was just part of an impressive performance by the Celtics as they pulled away for a comfortable 128-98 win over the Orlando Magic.

There were several players who delivered impressive performances, like Isaiah Thomas’ game-high 21 points which was the 30th straight game he had 20 or more points – a feat that had not been done by a Celtic since Kevin McHale in 1986 – three years before Thomas was even born.

But few stood out as much as Zeller’s strong performance after having missed his previous 11 games with sinus issues that at times made him disoriented and light-headed.

He finished with 10 points while making his first five shots from the field.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart was impressed with Zeller’s contributions, especially considering it was his first game since Dec. 29 at Cleveland.

Having had to come back from injuries himself, Smart knows how challenging Friday’s game must have been for Zeller after having not played for such a long time previously.

“It’s hard,” Smart said. “All the conditioning that you do to try and get ready, it’s nothing like actually being in game-like condition. It’s nothing like getting out there, running up and down.”

But it certainly looked that way for Zeller; well at least for a half.

“Second half I started to get a little tired and worn down,” Zeller acknowledged. “But it was good I got to go up and down and kind of get back in that game flow, see a lot of those actions, and be able to make adjustments tomorrow (versus Milwaukee).”

But it seemed the Magic were in need of making an adjustment on Zeller who came out red-hot shooting the ball.

“Once I made the first one it felt great,” said Zeller who wound up shooting 5-for-9 from the field. “After not playing for a while, don’t know exactly how long it’s been but it’s been a while, so just seeing that first one go in it felt good.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Zeller has been ready to play in the last couple of games, but Stevens said he opted to go in a different direction.

“They were kind of tough matchups,” Stevens said. “I probably should have played him some of the Washington game but the Rockets game you’re very rarely playing more than two bigs.”

But against the Magic whose frontline consists of Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka and 7-footer Nikola Vucevic, Stevens anticipated he would need to call upon Zeller.

“I thought tonight was going to be a good night for him,” said Stevens who added, “probably benefitted a little bit from Al (Horford) not playing (because of a groin injury) and took advantage of it.”

Stevens acknowledged Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic was a player that concerned him greatly prior to tip-off.

“And then I thought when Tyler came in he made things harder on him, at least initially,” Stevens said. “Sometimes that happens too, where you could come in, you’re fresh, after seven minutes or so the other guy is starting to wear down in his first stint. And I thought Tyler did a great job right out the gate.”

Gordon Hayward rips back a morning workout while repping his Butler Bulldogs

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Gordon Hayward rips back a morning workout while repping his Butler Bulldogs

There hasn't been all positive news surrounding Gordon Hayward as of late.

The Celtics have been shooting down rumors of Hayward returning this season. Recent news has detailed a minor setback in his recovery.

But it's always good to see the C's superstar up early crushing a workout in the weightroom.

We might not see him back in 2018, but his dedication during recovery is something to admire.


Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

AP Photo

Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

It seems all season we’ve talked about the Boston Celtics overcoming adversity, whether it be a bad injury to a key player or a blown assignment leading to a loss.

Nowhere is this more apparent than their play on the road this season which ranks among the best in the NBA.

The Celtics will look to continue on their road warrior-like ways tonight at New Orleans, a team that’s fighting for playoff position in the tighter-than-usual Western Conference.

In recent years, the terrain has been rough for teams from the East venturing into Western Conference territory.

For this year’s Celtics?

Not so much.

Boston comes into tonight’s game with a 17-7 record against Western Conference teams, tops among all teams in the East.

And while Boston has eight road games left this season, they are on pace to finish with one of the best road records in franchise history.

Currently 24-9 away from the TD Garden (tops in the East, third overall in the NBA), that’s a winning percentage of .727 which is the fourth-highest in franchise history.

Here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on when the Boston Celtics take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.


It’s a given that Al Horford will spend time defending Anthony Davis tonight. And while Davis will likely have a strong night scoring the ball, you can count on Horford making it extremely tough on him. When the two teams met on Jan. 16, Davis was 8-for-19 shooting for 16 points in 52 possessions when defended by Horford. For the game, Davis had 45 points on 16-for-34 shooting.


We’ve seen “Playoff" Rondo and “National TV" Rondo deliver some impressive performances in the past. What will we see from “Well-Rested” Rondo? The Pelicans gave the ex-Celtic the night off on Saturday as to not play him in back-to-back games. Of the two games, it made sense to sit him against the Rockets and have him ready to roll against a Boston Celtics team that will not have its full complement of players available.


Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had some choice words about the officiating in New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday that he clearly felt cost his team a better chance at winning. The only cost in play now is how big will the check be that he’ll pay the league for his comments about the officiating. His issue was that Anthony Davis doesn’t get enough calls based on the physical abuse he takes per game. Davis ranks fourth in the NBA in free throw attempts (7.8) per game, but only had four attempts against the Rockets. It’ll be worth watching whether the Pelicans, 16th in the league in free throw attempts (21.4) per game, will get to the line significantly more or less than their season average.


One of the keys to Boston’s improved play since returning to the floor since the all-star break, has been their ability to begin games with strong play. Boston has outscored their opponent in the first quarter each of the last eight games, and 10 of 11. In addition, Boston has been ahead at the half in each of their 10 games since the all-star break, which comes on the heels of trailing at the half in the seven games prior to the break.


Jayson Tatum has been one of the most impactful rookies in the NBA this season which will likely land him a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie first or second team. One of the strengths of Tatum has been his durability, evident by him being one of just two first-year players to appear in each of his team’s games played this season. He is joined by Memphis’ Dillon Brooks.