Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla Expects Response After Tough Game 3 Loss Vs. Hawks

'We did a good job handling their momentum'


Apr 21, 2023

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla made it clear he didn’t expect the Atlanta Hawks to go down without a fight going into Game 3.

That prediction rang true, as Friday night, the Hawks came out firing from the opening tip.

Atlanta went 51-of-91 from the field, shooting an impressive 56% by the final buzzer, proving to be a much different team from what they’ve shown in the previous two games against the Celtics — exactly what Mazzulla claimed he expected, right? Well, following Boston’s 130-122 loss, Mazzulla offered his expectation for the Celtics heading into Game 4.

“Throw one back,” Mazzulla told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Just understanding the second quarter. Understanding what went well, what didn’t. How we can be better and what we need to keep on doing. I felt we did a good job handling their momentum and their energy throughout the game.”

The Hawks clicked everywhere, starting with guard Trae Young (32 points) and Atlanta’s bench (44 points) simultaneously taking pressure off each other. In the first half, they scored 74 points, which is the most any team has scored against the Celtics this season and the most any team has in the playoffs so far. Not to mention outscoring your opponent, 23-9, in second-chance points goes a long way this time of year.

Yet, even despite being noticeably caught off guard, through Atlanta’s wise choice of allowing Young to toy with Al Horford on the defensive switch along with a surprise Hawks shooting night from beyond the arc, the C’s were still well within reach.

Boston knotted up the score at 79-79 with 8:13 left in the third quarter, but failed to find must-need big moments necessary to claw out a road win. Their key contributors, Jayson Tatum (29 points) and Jaylen Brown (15 points), also weren’t up to par with the occasion at hand.

“I think the slip-ups came from their role guys,” Mazulla said. “First two games we gave them some open shots that they missed. I thought that those guys knocked them down tonight. And then they capitalized on those second-chance opportunities.”

Still ahead in the series, 2-1, the Celtics find themselves in an interesting spot. Yes, they’re ahead. However, they haven’t been the same since Game 1 when they played like a 57-win team. Instead, they’ve given the Hawks new life, which they can squash with a much-needed Game 4 reminder to Atlanta and themselves of who they are.

Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images
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