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.

Celtics' Jayson Tatum playing better as a sophomore

Celtics' Jayson Tatum playing better as a sophomore

BOSTON -- Jayson Tatum is a victim of his own success. 

One of the top rookies last season, Tatum emerged as a clutch scorer for the Celtics in the playoffs, whether it was knocking down a 3-pointer or going to the rim and dunking on his childhood idol, LeBron James. 

But these first weeks of the season have reminded us that as good as Tatum has been, he too will experience his share of ups and downs on the floor.

That’s why he wasn’t the least bit phased by delivering a season-high 27 points in Boston’s loss at Portland on Sunday. 

MORE CELTICS

“I never get too excited when I play well,” Tatum said. “I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do. I know I’m gonna make shots eventually. It’s a long season. Some days it just don’t go in.”

Tatum is hoping those days are behind him now that he’s put together a couple of high-scoring, highly efficient scoring games. 

Although Tatum is only shooting 41.3 percent from the field this season, he has connected on at least 50 percent of his shot attempts in the last two games while averaging 24.0 points per game in that stretch.  

It makes sense for him to start breaking out and making shots considering the Celtics rank among the league’s leaders in open shot attempts. 

“We’re gonna hit open shots eventually,” Tatum said. “It’s still pretty early. We’re not trying to make excuses. Guys in here will figure it out.”

MORE CELTICS

And while there’s understandably a considerable amount of attention given to what Tatum does as a scorer, he’s actually playing better in just about every phase of the game outside of his shooting percentage. 

His scoring, rebounds, assists as well as offensive and defensive ratings, are all better than what he did statistically as a rookie last season. 

But Tatum understands that while the Celtics need him to be an all-around player, he also knows that a big part of what he contributes is directly tied into his ability to make shots at an efficient level. 

That’s’ exactly what he did as a rookie, connecting on 47.5 percent of his field-goal attempts -- including 41.3 percent of his 3-pointers -- while averaging 13.9 points per game. 

Tatum acknowledged that he was in a bit of a shooting funk before breaking out in the last two games, a trend he hopes to continue when Boston returns to the floor to host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. 

He explained part of what has gone into him re-discovering his shooting stroke recently. 

“Just concentrating, going a little bit harder in pre-game routines, getting game-like shots,” Tatum said. 

MORE CELTICS

Coach Brad Stevens believes Tatum’s turnaround shooting the ball began in the loss to the Jazz.

“He did a much better job of really picking spots and getting the right looks,” Stevens said Friday's defeat in Utah. “He’s a young guy. I thought he handled the last 48 hours great. I was pleased with how he played.”

Stevens had started the second half of Boston’s comeback win at Phoenix the previous night with Marcus Smart in the lineup in place of Tatum. 

Following the game, Stevens said the decision was not an indictment of any particular player but instead a need to jump-start the team, which was by and large was lethargic up to that point. 

But as we’ve seen with Tatum, good play, bad play, it doesn’t matter. 

He is all about that “on to the next one” mantra, where the goal is to simply keep getting better regardless of how ridiculously high the expectations from others may be for him. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE