Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla Isn’t Concerned With Lead Collapse In Game 1

'I thought we had momentum for the entire second half'


Apr 18, 2023

BOSTON — The Celtics nearly had the Hawks for all four frames in Game 1, but still allowed Atlanta to muster up a decisive last-minute push before walking away victorious.

At halftime, the C’s led the contest by 32 points. Then by the start of the third quarter, that lead had fallen to just 19 points, even boosting a feeling of confidence within Hawks guard Dejountee Murray, who felt Atlanta built just the right amount of momentum in the second half to carry over into Game 2 on Tuesday night.

Well, regardless, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla isn’t at all worried.

“I thought we had momentum for the entire second half, and Atlanta’s a really good team and they’re talented and they put a lot of pressure on your defense,” Mazzulla told reporters Tuesday. “So I was expecting them to make a run. Some of that run was self-inflicted because of our turnovers and some of that. But also, we got some good looks and we didn’t make them. … We still showed moments of playing through things which I think is important in the playoffs.”

Overall, yes, to Mazzulla’s credit, the Celtics had control for the better part of four quarters. However, allowing the Hawks to battle back isn’t costly because they’re a subpar Eastern Conference competitor. Atlanta ranked 26th in the league in 3-pointers made per game and third in turnovers, therefore, it’s unlikely that they’ll show any capability of making a team like the Celtics pay for their mistakes in the long run.

Against teams like the Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks, opposing offenses with a stronger veteran core will salivate at the opportunity to capitalize on a cold shooting streak and double-digit lead drop before the start of the game’s final 12 minutes.

Boston committed five turnovers — including one to end the game — in the second half while also shooting just 4-of-17 from beyond the arc, allowing Atlanta to claw back toward making the contest relatively competitive in comparison to the first half’s story.

“It was 22 at the end of the half, and then it got to 12 with 3:04 to go,” Mazzulla said. “But the expectation wasn’t for it to get to 52. It was just to try to play the right way the whole time.”

With Mazzulla still confident in the same eight-man rotation he ran with in Game 1 — Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Sam Hauser, Robert Williams III and Malcolm Brogdon — perhaps the result can end in a cozier walk across the finish line in Game 2.

Thumbnail photo via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images
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