Al Horford admits that he’s never had to worry about keeping himself ready despite spending long stretches of time on the bench.

That’s why the Celtics big man marvels at one of Tyler Zeller’s more remarkable attributes: consistency in the face of inconsistent playing time.

“It’s difficult. I’ve been very fortunate I’ve never been in that position, but it’s got to be difficult because you’re preparing every night like something’s going to happen,” Horford said. “It’s like the backup quarterback. Nothing’s there. But he’s managed it as well as I’ve seen. And then when he gets in there, he makes sure that he makes the most of it.”

That was certainly true of Zeller during the Celtics’ 109-100 win against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

Matchup needs led to the 7-footer logging important minutes for the second straight game. Zeller did a little bit of everything, finishing with six points on 3-for-5 shooting, two assists, three rebounds and a blocked shot.

“It’s huge,” Horford said. “He’s physical. His presence. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. I said it last time, I just have a lot of respect for him. Just because it’s been hard knowing that you can be in there contributing, and he just keeps coming in like a professional, doing his work, staying ready. He’s getting the opportunity now and he’s showing it. He was huge for us tonight again.”


SPURS 97, GRIZZLIES 90: LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points, Kawhi Leonard added 19 and San Antonio won at home in a possible first-round playoff preview.

San Antonio opened a four-game homestand by moving two games behind idle Golden State for the league’s best record. The Spurs (55-16) close the homestand against the Warriors (57-14) next Wednesday.

RAPTORS 101, HEAT 84: DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points, marking the first time he’s had that many in consecutive games, and Toronto pulled off its 19th double-digit comeback of the season to win at Miami.

DeRozan shot 14 for 25 from the field and 12 for 13 from the line. He needed 38 shots to score 42 against Chicago on Tuesday.

Norman Powell scored 14 and Delon Wright added 13 for Toronto, which never led until midway through the third quarter. The Raptors allowed 33 points in the first quarter, then held Miami to 35 points over the next 27 minutes.

Playing with 13 stitches in his right hand, Hassan Whiteside scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Miami.

NETS 126, SUNS 98: Brook Lopez scored 19 points and K.J. McDaniels had a season-high 16 as host Brooklyn earned consecutive victories for the first time this season.

Trevor Booker added 14 points for the league-worst Nets, who beat Detroit on Tuesday.

Devin Booker scored 28 points and Marquese Chriss had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns.

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