BOSTON - Tyler Zeller was king of the playground Friday night, torching the Bucks in a game of hide-and-seek.
Zeller took advantage of the Bucks' tangled defense to tie a career-high with 26 points. Many of his baskets came by shifting to open spots on the weak side when the Bucks doubled on the ball. Several baskets came from Evan Turner working out of the low post.
"Me and Zeller always have pretty great chemistry," Turner said. "He's a big target, I think he makes sure he runs the floor and he's always in the right spot. I think he made himself available and definitely helped us out a lot."
Turner has operated well out of the high post this year when running point, doing his best Gary Payton impression. Tonight it was Zeller who reaped the benefits.
"I'm the only post player in this locker room that is doubled," Turner joked. "[Sullinger is doubled] a little bit. But not at the level I am. People are screaming every time I touch within 10 feet. Sully is just, ‘I don't care, we won't guard him.' Nah, it was cool. My teammates did a great job of just making themselves available, once again. I think it led to a lot of success all around."
The alleged panic was evident whenever Turner got a post touch and attracted a double team. When the Bucks' bigs tried to play zone, the Celtics ran sweeping cuts to draw perimeter players in to the same zones as the post defenders. This opened up holes that Zeller filled well, like this perfect misdirection play.
"They were double teaming Evan (Turner), blitzing their pick and roll guy so coach just kept saying get it out of your hands, get it to the bigs and let us make plays," Zeller said. "Somehow I just ended up wide open every time I caught it and just had to make a couple layups."
It was a night to remember for the backup center who has sat patiently on the bench for much of the season. Stevens always has a knack for working a seldomly used player into the gameplan at the right time. With the way Zeller was playing Friday, he had to stick with his guy.
"I thought that group at the end did a pretty good job, really end of the third quarter all the way on, of maintaining that when we had Jonas (Jerebko), Kelly (Olynyk) and Tyler (Zeller) who hadn't played a lot of minutes together," Stevens said. "But Tyler was playing at such a good level that it was clear he needed to be in the game."
So with a career-high 26 points and four blocks, Zeller watches the regular season head to a close with at least one crucial game under his belt. He may be called upon again in the playoffs. Stevens knows he'll be ready.
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