Joe Mazzulla Satisfied With ‘Proactive’ Celtics Fourth Quarter In Game 6

'We were organized'


Apr 28, 2023

The Boston Celtics flipped the script, bounced back and put the Atlanta Hawks to bed in Game 6 on Thursday night at State Farm Arena.

Despite opening the game with a commanding 12-2 run to begin the night, the Hawks didn’t go down without a convincing bid toward a potential do-or-die Game 7. But as was the case in Boston’s crushing Game 5 loss, which the C’s botched themselves, it all came down to the fourth quarter. And that’s where the Celtics displayed their strongest poise and closeout ability throughout the series, rewarded with a 128-120 victory and a date with the Philadelphia 76ers in the semifinals.

“I like how we didn’t relax, we were proactive, we were organized,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said postgame, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “We had the proper spacing and we made the proper reads. Definitely different from Game 5 and I thought (Marcus) Smart was tremendous. Especially late in the fourth quarter. He got us organized and he was kind of the trigger man.”

In Game 5 the fourth quarter, or better yet Boston’s lackluster final stretch play, proved to be its greatest enemy. They fumbled a shot to put the Hawks to rest, at the one-yard line in front of their home crowd, due in large part to an inconvenient stretch of sloppy play. But this time the Celtics didn’t undermine their subpar opponent and pulled out all the stops when it mattered most.

The Celtics recorded five blocks in the fourth quarter alone, unleashing a killer instinct we hadn’t seen in Games 1 through 5. Boston matched Atlanta’s tenacity to the finish line, surpassing the Hawks with a series-closing 11-0 run which was capped off with the cherry on top — an epic put-back dunk — courtesy of Tatum.

“I thought we made timely passes,” Mazzulla explained. “And I thought Smart made timely rolls and timely decisions at the rim, Jayson (Tatum) and Jaylen (Brown) did a great job of baiting those two-on-ones and keeping their poise.”

The Hawks proved to be fazed by the Celtics, failing in four consecutive inbound attempts before turning the ball over with 18.4 seconds, taking on the role of the sloppy fellas before the final buzzer.

After taking some well-deserved heat for an atrociously-handled fourth quarter in Game 5, Mazzulla looked to his bench for some added defensive assurance, playing Grant Williams in crunch time. In Games 1, 2, 4 and 5, Williams registered a DNP, which Mazzulla previously attributed to matchups.

Nevertheless, in learning from a few costly mistakes in Game 5, Mazzulla adjusted in a crucial spot.

“Credit to (Williams) for his professionalism, his humility, to just constantly be ready,” Mazzulla said. “And I thought he was a big part of our late-game defense cause of our switching and he really helped us in that regard.”

If the Celtics learned anything from succumbing to last-minute crumbling, perhaps they’ll take round one as a learning lesson moving ahead as their road to NBA Finals redemption continues. Next stop: Philadelphia.

Thumbnail photo via Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports Images
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