Tyler Zeller Game Winner vs Utah Jazz
Brad Stevens doesn’t care that the team has employed 40 different players this season and definitely isn’t using that as an excuse. As it stands right now the Celtics are only 2 games back in the standings for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics have been competitive, well prepared and focused for every every game on their schedule aside from a few stragglers here or there; which is inevitable over the course of an 82 game NBA season. What’s most impressive about the roster turnover is that the Celtics are able to integrate the new guys quickly enough to still be 5th in the entire league in assist percentage. On the season the Celtics have assisted on 63% of their made field goals this year, a stat normally dominated by teams with continuity from multiple seasons as evidenced by the 4 teams that are in front of them(Hawks, Warriors, Spurs, Wizards). Wednesday night at home against the upstart Utah Jazz in front of what has become a regularly raucous TD Garden crowd was no exception to the rule.
The Celtics let a late lead slip away that was punctuated by a Gordon Hayward step back over Tyler Zeller. Haywards shot off his right leg gave the Jazz a 1 point lead and left only 1.7 seconds left on the clock for a Celtics rebuttal.
After a timeout the Celtics advanced the ball to their front-court with Marcus Smart inbounding the ball. Smart was joined by Avery Bradley who was positioned at the ball side pinch post with newly acquired Isaiah Thomas at the opposite pinch post pinch. Jae Crowder was on the weak side block and the future hero Tyler Zeller was at the top of they key straddling the 3 point line.
Thomas initiated the action by cutting to the ball side corner with his defender trailing close behind. As soon as he cleared the lane Bradley and Crowder simultaneously cut in almost a rub action that forced Utah to switch. As Crowder was nearing the 3 point line, Tyler Zeller set a down screen for him forcing yet another Utah Jazz switch. The last switch, which put the smaller Rodney Hood on Zeller, was late allowing Zeller to get inside position.
The results of the cuts spaced the floor and placed Isaiah Thomas, a 38% 3 point shooter, and Avery Bradley, a 36% shooter from 3, in each corner. Crowder occupied the top of the key; the easiest pass for the in bounder. With long rotations to help Smart threw a perfect pass over the top to Tyler Zeller. Zeller did a great job gathering himself and allowing Hood to leave his feet. With Gordon Hayward helping from the corner and shot-blocking extraordinaire Rudy Gobert flying in from the sideline, Tyler Zeller front pivoted away from them and laid the ball in as time expired.
The Jazz might have made the most pivotal error before the play ever began. Rudy Gobert who averages 2.3 blocks per game, good enough for 3rd best in the NBA, was guarding the in bounder Smart. The logic probably goes he was there to try and pressure the ball and force an errant pass or even a deflection; both scenarios almost indefinitely ending the game. Gobert wasn’t able to both the pass and instead had the longest distance on the court to go to challenge the shot at the rim. It was just another example of brilliance from Head Coach Brad Stevens and the resilience of this years edition of the Boston Celtics.
Coach John Zall just completed his first season as an Assistant Coach at Division II Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH. This past season Franklin Pierce University won 20 games and advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament. Zall arrived at Franklin Pierce after spending the past 3 seasons as the Associate Head Coach/Head JV Coach at O’Bryant High school in Roxbury, MA. During his tenure at O’Bryant the program improved from 4 wins to 12 wins and qualified for the MIAA State Tournament twice.
Coach Zall also has experience as an AAU Head Coach for the Boston Warriors. As Head Coach for the Warriors his team won the 2011 16U State Title and twice competed in AAU Nationals down in Orlando, FL. On top of being a student at Northeastern University, Zall was named Head Coach of the Men’s Club Basketball team for the 2012-13 season. During his lone season as Head Coach, Northeastern finished second in the Northeast Regional Tournament featuring colleges from throughout the East Coast. Coach Zall has also spent time as a Head Coach in the Bay State Games where his team won the Bronze Medal in 2012 and at various camps including: Five Star, Boston Celtics, NIKE, Franklin Pierce University, Hoop Group and The Elite 75.
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