With just under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 1, the lone remaining domino of the Celtics-Cavaliers blockbuster trade strutted onto the floor to a raucous ovation.
He immediately altered an Aron Baynes jump hook and proceeded to snatch two rebounds in the final stretch.
It wasn’t former Cavalier and current Celtic Kyrie Irving coming in to close. He’s out for the playoffs.
It wasn’t former Celtic, current Laker, and soon-to-be free agent Isaiah Thomas providing a spark for the Cavaliers. The IT Era in Cleveland didn’t exactly go as planned.
It wasn’t Jae Crowder. He’s on the Jazz and is far removed from both franchises at this point.
No, this player wasn’t any of those familiar names. It was Ante Zizic — a stoic soldier coming in for garbage time in the Cavaliers’ 108-83 loss to the Celtics Sunday. The ovation wasn’t for him, but rather for Terry Rozier as the guard took a seat after another strong showing.
Zizic, whom the Celtics selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, fared well, registering an assist and getting to the line – though he did miss both free throws. Unlike Rodney Hood, he didn’t complain when his number was called with the deficit essentially insurmountable.
He’s played a total of 11 minutes in three games in the playoffs after averaging 6.7 minutes per contest in the regular season. Zizic poured in a career-high 20 points in the Cavaliers’ regular-season finale against the Knicks, hitting seven of nine shots and snagging seven boards in 27 minutes.
Once an afterthought in a trade that figured to add an extra layer of drama to the already juicy Celtics-Cavaliers narrative, Zizic was – improbably – the last man standing.