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Tyler Zeller is on a roll with Rajon Rondo

The Nets were so concerned about guarding Rajon Rondo, they forgot about Celtics center Tyler Zeller (44) who was able to score easily from in close. Elise Amendola/AP

WALTHAM — For a split second, Tyler Zeller couldn’t believe he was all by himself under the rim.

Naturally, Zeller thought it was odd when he tried to set a screen for Rajon Rondo early in the second quarter of the Celtics’ blowout win over the Nets on Wednesday night and no one followed him to the basket.

Jarrett Jack didn’t see Zeller slip by him. Neither did Kevin Garnett.

They were both too worried about Rondo.

Zeller had the paint to himself, and Rondo was the only one on the floor who hadn’t forgotten about him.

With both his and Zeller’s defender on a string, Rondo bounced a one-handed pass to Zeller, who was free to do whatever he wanted from there.


He chose to flush the ball through the rim with two hands.

“I was a little surprised how open I was,” Zeller said. “But I”ll take it.”

Rondo and Zeller came back down and did the exact same thing a possession later and Zeller got an open layup out of it. They did it again, three minutes later, and the Nets finally realized they should keep tabs on the Celtics 7-footer.

“The two-handed dunk, I was a little surprised,” Zeller said. “The other two I had somebody around me swiping at it.”

Part of it was the passer, Zeller acknowledged.

“It’s something that, any time you play with Rondo, he’s an unbelievable passer, so really you just try to put him in the pick-and-roll, give him or me the opportunity to get open,” Zeller said. “He did a great job drawing two [defenders] and I had a wide-open layup, so that made it pretty easy.

“Playing with Rondo, off and on with injury, I’ve learned how amazing his passes are and how much he sees. So a lot of times if you can just sneak behind a defense, he’ll find you and you’ll be wide open.”


But even though Zeller was only on the court for six minutes in the Celtics’ season-opening win, with Rondo’s court vision and the Celtics’ shooters attracting attention, there were easy buckets for him under the rim.

“I think first of all it’s the spread floor, it’s the shooters around him that allow him to be open on those rolls, it’s a great passer in Rondo that finds him on those rolls, and then it’s the willingness to do that with a high motor,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “And that’s not always the case with guys. Tyler plays with a high motor, we talked about his ability to rim-run since he’s been here, but he also gets off screens well.’’

The only reason Zeller didn’t see the floor in the second half against the Nets was because Stevens thought the Nets’ best chance of a comeback would be by the 3-pointer.

“I was trying to match up with them because I was worried about the 3-point shot and that was the only way to get back in it,” Stevens said. “We still didn’t guard it, so I probably should’ve just played him.”

When Zeller came to Boston this offseason from Cleveland in a three-team deal, the Celtics knew his value in the pick-and-roll. It didn’t take long for it to play out on the court.

“I think it puts a lot of pressure on the defense,” Zeller said. “They were playing our shooters, so I was the one that ended up open. So it adds a different dynamic to the offense. You’ve just got to be good at it and you’ve got to understand that it’s not always going to end with you but sometimes it does.”


Ariza gets attention

As much as the Celtics have to worry about size on their two-game swing through Texas (Rockets on Saturday and Mavericks on Monday), there are other traps waiting for them. Stevens watched Houston’s matchup with the Jazz on Wednesday, and one player that isn’t flying under Stevens’s radar is Trevor Ariza, who reunited with the Rockets in the offseason.

He saw the pair of transition 3-pointers that Ariza knocked down, and took them as reminders that the 6-foot-8-inch swing man can shift a game.

“I think Trevor Ariza’s accomplished quite a bit in this league as well,” Stevens said. “He had a great year in Washington, a guy that I thought was undervalued on Washington’s team last year and a guy that to me has picked up right where we left off.

“He’s just always kind of a guy that makes the difference like that. He may not stand out all the time, but it seems like he’s very comfortable being that guy that just impacts winning. I think they’ve got a good one in him.”

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com