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Tyler Zeller has the shot chart of a man who knows exactly where he makes his living on the basketball court.

On the season, he's only missed four of the 29 shots he's taken.

But that's because he hasn't taken a shot that he wasn't supposed to.

Only one of the 29 shots he's taken have come from outside the paint.

It was the 11-footer he hit with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter of the Celtics' 118-114 loss to the Suns Monday night at TD Garden.

That's the only jumper he's taken all year.

He came off the bench and easily had his best scoring night of the season, giving the Celtics 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

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"He was kind of our go-to interior guy tonight," coach Brad Stevens said.

The next time Zeller takes a bad shot will be the first time.

"Give it time," Zeller said. "It'll happen. One of these nights I'm going to have a night where I miss some, but I'm on a good streak right now."

Eventually, Zeller knows his helium-filled 86.2 shooting percentage will come back down to earth.

But in three seasons in the league, he's become more and more refined about his shot selection.

When he came out of North Carolina two years ago, more than a quarter of the shots he took were 15- to 19-footers, and he shot just 38.2 percent from that distance. Meanwhile, he was shooting 54.5 percent from five feet and in.

The next season, he trimmed the midrange shots down to 16 percent of the 290 shots he took, and connected on 51.1 percent of them.

Meanwhile, more than half the shots he was taking were coming at the rim, and his 5-feet-or-less shooting percentage rose to 61.3 percent.

"You've just got to take smart shots and make the plays you can," Zeller said

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This season, he's largely been Rajon Rondo's personal pick-and-roll man, and it's worked for him.

He ended up playing a season-high 27 minutes Monday night, and the way the Suns played defense, Zeller said, it made it easy for the Celtics to deliver passes right in his pocket.

"I'm starting to figure out my teammates as well as my teammates starting to figure out what I do well," Zeller said. "They do a great job of getting the ball to me every time and making my job easy."

The more Stevens sees of Zeller the more he learns, as well.

"I didn't realize he could pass like this," Stevens said. "So his ballhandling and passing [are] a big bonus."

"But I knew his makeup and I knew that teams need that. Teams need a physical guy, teams need a tough guy, teams need a mentally tough guy, a guy who's won and a guy who's impacted winning without scoring. Pretty valuable guy."

On guard

Before a sprained ankle sidelined Marcus Smart, the most intriguing part about the Celtics' matchup with the Suns would have been seeing how the teams' backcourts clashed.

The Suns ran out three guards — Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas — who could break the scoreboard.

The Celtics had three guards — Rondo, Avery Bradley, and Smart — with reputations for putting the clamps on anyone you put in front of them.

Looking at each other's grass from their respective sides of the fence, Stevens and Suns coach Jeff Hornacek could appreciate the strengths both teams play to.

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Bringing in Thomas meant the Suns always have at least two threats on the floor at all times, Stevens said.

"Isaiah Thomas has been a great addition to what was already one of the scarier teams both in transition and off those high screens," Stevens said before the game. "They all can do a lot of things.

"I think the biggest thing is any one of those guys can have the ball at the end of the game and score off a high screen."

That's the hardest thing, is the way that those guys can go off of screens. It's a really unique challenge to have two guys on the court all the time that are that good off the screen."

When Smart is healthy, the Celtics have a player who can pick up the point guard full-court if he wants.

"When you've got guys out there that can run an offense and you've got guys that can play defense, it helps," said Hornacek.

"That's the first line of defense is the guards. They're putting pressure on guys. You have post-up guys, it's harder to make post-up passes and entry passes."

"So that's probably a good thing that they have, is they've got these guys that can really play defense."

Almost every night, the Celtics have had to figure out how to stop one of the league's best point guards. It started with the Nets' Deron Williams, then it was the Raptors' Kyle Lowry, then the Thunder's Reggie Jackson and the Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving.

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The spike in talent from college to the pros is obvious, Stevens said, but the biggest jump is clearly at point guard.

"I think the biggest difference for me is how good the point guards are as far as being able to use these screens," Stevens said. "They're so creative. If you can direct and connect to a college player, then you usually can keep them where you want to go. You can be physical enough and those types of things, they at least have to really earn their night.

"These guys, some of these guys aren't affected by it. And it's just a really good league in that regard.

Stevens said the void Smart left has been noticeable.

"I think we miss him every night," he said. "But I think that we've just got to make sure that we are even tighter with our stuff."

Green back in town

For all the twists his career took and for as long as it took him to mature into a consistent player in the league, Gerald Green said he wouldn't reconsider his decision to jump straight from Gulf Shores Academy to the NBA.

"It was a dream of mine," Green said. "I had an opportunity to fulfill my dream, so I did it. If I had to make that decision again, I'd do the same thing over again."

"I'd go right out of high school. I don't do college."

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After the Celtics drafted him in 2005, Green bounced from Minnesota to Houston to Dallas and then played in Russia.

He spent two years out of the league before catching on with the Nets in February of 2012, then having a resurgence with the Pacers in 2012-13 and now landing with the Suns.

He entered Monday averaging 14.6 points a night.

At 28, he's wiser than the player who treated the NBA like high school — "I thought it was AAU," he said — but he still didn't see college as the best road for him.

"I mean, to each his own," Green said. "College can help kids. I would never tell a kid not to go to college, but that's just not for me."

Green had 7 points in 20 minutes Monday night.

Young up and down

The past week threw James Young a couple of curveballs. First he had to miss two days of practice to deal with a family illness. Then, after he returned, he found out he was being sent to the D-League. He got the news after the Celtics' loss to the Cavaliers Friday night, two days after he rejoined the team. "It hit me for a while, I was shocked," Young said. "But at the same time I knew it was an opportunity for me to go out there and just get better and it was a lot of fun. "It was just a chance for me to develop my game and go out there and have fun. I really needed that. And I'll probably go back a couple more times, so who knows." He finished with 21 points and five rebounds in an 81-80 win over Fort Wayne on Sunday . . . Suns forward P.J. Tucker has been suspended. A spokeswoman said Tucker missed the plane to Boston.


Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.