Zizic Excels as C's Down Blazers, Advance to 2-0

LAS VEGAS – The Boston Celtics advanced their record to 2-0 in the NBA Summer League by downing the Portland Trail Blazers 70-64 Sunday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Boston sandwiched two big runs around the first half that determined the outcome of the game. It opened the contest up with an 11-0 spurt out of the gates, and it closed the first half with a 20-6 run to take a 38-24 lead into halftime.

A balanced offensive attack and impressive defensive performance allowed the C’s to maintain a double-digit lead for the entire second half outside of the final minute of play as it cruised into the winner’s circle.

“I think everybody just got more opportunities,” Jayson Tatum said after the runaway victory. “A lot more guys played today, and when their number was called they stepped up and that was big.”

Putting forth a balanced offensive performance was a welcomed surprise for the C’s, who had previously been relying heavily on Jaylen Brown, Tatum and Abdel Nader through their first four Summer League games. Sunday night against Portland was a different story, as everyone contributed and multiple C’s draft picks played their best basketball of the summer.

Ante Zizic, who was chosen 23rd overall by the Celtics in the 2016 NBA Draft, finally caught a rhythm at both ends of the court. Zizic tallied nine points to go along with game highs of 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. He was a difference-maker on both sides of the ball. Zizic appeared to be much more comfortable on the court, but he still thinks he has a long way to go.

“I need just a little bit of time,” he said, “because these are my first games here and also I’m expecting a little bit more from myself. I just need a little bit of time to get used to this style of game.”

From Brown’s perspective, however, it appears as if Zizic is already making the necessary adjustments to NBA basketball.

“Ante is going to be fine,” Brown said. “He just does his job. Be a star in your role. He rolls hard, he rebounds the ball, great rebounder. I think he’s going to be fine.”

The C’s also received a boost from Jabari Bird, who was chosen with the 56th overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft. In only 12 minutes of play, the sharpshooting guard tallied nine points on 4-fot-7 shooting while also pulling in three boards.

Per usual, Brown and Tatum filled the box score as well. Brown totaled 13 points and eight rebounds and threw down a monstrous dunk during the second quarter that brought the crowd to its feet. Tatum, meanwhile, notched 11 points and seven rebounds.

Balanced offense ignited the team’s defense. The Celtics logged their top defensive performance of the summer against Portland, as they limited the Trail Blazers to only 29.7 percent shooting from the field and 23.5 percent shooting from long distance. Portland managed to hit only four 3-pointers compared to Boston’s nine.

The Celtics will now receive a much-needed off day Monday following their back-to-back victories on Saturday and Sunday. The team will return to the court Tuesday night when it takes on the Philadelphia 76ers at 9:30 p.m.

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