Boston Celtics

Queta becoming a physical presence, ‘doesn't know how good he can be'

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla had high praise for the two-way player after another impressive showing.

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Boston Celtics big man Neemias Queta has become a fan favorite at TD Garden. On a two-way contract and only eligible to be active for 50 games this season, Queta's consistency is starting to create an argument for Boston to convert him over to a standard deal.

Logging his 15th game of the season, Queta once again impressed Wednesday night in Boston's 117-98 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Seeing increased minutes (12) thanks to a big lead early on, he was a force to be reckoned with on the boards with eight rebounds. On top of that, the 7-foot big man made it hard for the Spurs to score in the paint, accounting for two of the team's six blocks. Queta also scored six points on an effective 50 percent from the field.

"He changed the game for us in the first half," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of Queta.

Queta stepped up against Spurs rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama. The French phenom has been a matchup nightmare in his debut season, but Queta did a great job of slowing the 7-foot-4 big man down with his physical presence, holding Wembanyama to just three points on 0 for 2 shooting in 1:24 as his primary defender.

"I just like seeing Neemy [Queta] be physical," Mazzulla added of last season's G-League MVP runner-up. "The presence that he's playing with on the floor -- he's one of those kids, he doesn't understand how good he can be."

In a modest 13.6 minutes per game this season, Queta has remained consistent, averaging 4.9 points on 56 percent from the field and 4.7 rebounds. What won't show on the stat sheet, however, is Queta's ability to play effective, drop-back defense, allowing the Celtics to always have help in the paint. With Luke Kornet being the go-to backup big, Queta's size and physicality have made Mazzulla find ways to get the Portugal-born big on the court.

"He's starting to see that when he plays with a certain presence," Mazzulla noted of seeing the difference Queta makes. "We're a different team."

Celtics president Brad Stevens has a decision to make before Queta's eligibility runs out and he is forced to end his season with the G-League affiliate Maine Celtics. The C's do have one remaining open roster spot, and Queta is starting to make it hard for Boston not to convert him to a standard deal.

Queta may never be a team's first option, but a path to meaningful and impactful rotation minutes with the contending Celtics is a real possibility.

Now on a historic 20-game home win streak -- only the 13th team in NBA history to do so -- the Celtics will look to carry their momentum to Friday night, where they will face off against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

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