On paper, the Boston Celtics should have cruised past the lowly San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.
It turned out to be anything but an easy 121-116 win though for the Celtics at AT&T Center.
The performance from the Celtics left a lot to be desired. Boston was in control throughout the first half, but took its foot off the gas over the final 24 minutes and allowed the Spurs to erase a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit. It took a shot in the final seconds from Jayson Tatum along with some insurance free throws to finally put away the Spurs.
It really shouldn’t have been that stressful of a game for the Celtics, especially with the Spurs missing three out of their top four scorers. But Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla was actually pleased Boston didn’t coast to its league-leading 28th win.
“I’m actually glad the game went like that for us,” Mazzulla told reporters, per NBC Sports Boston postgame coverage. “We needed a game like that to where it’s back-and-forth, things aren’t going our way, they are going our way. You don’t get a lot of those. It’s easy to say that because we won. But I’m happy that the game went the way it did because we got to execute some stuff.”
The “stuff” Mazzulla got to execute was a double-big lineup in the latter stages of the fourth quarter as he paired up Al Horford and Robert Williams, who turned in a phenomenal performance at both ends of the floor with 10 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and two steals.
But it’s become a trend for the Celtics recently to play down to their competition, which happened earlier on their road trip with an embarrassing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Mazzulla isn’t concerned about the Celtics hitting their proverbial on-off button at the moment. Boston’s win over the Spurs was far from perfect, but Mazzulla didn’t want it that way as he feels his team benefitted more from having to grind things out on the road.
“There’s obviously a lot of stuff tactically that we can work on, but from a psychological, mindset standpoint, I’m glad the game went the way it did,” Mazzulla said.