Joe Mazzulla Saw Clear Lack Of ‘Poise’ From Celtics In Game 5 Meltdown

'I think that we had some boneheaded plays'


Apr 25, 2023

BOSTON — Joe Mazzulla couldn’t deny it. It would be very hard to even if he did. But in front of a TD Garden crowd Tuesday night with a chance to close out the Atlanta Hawks, the Boston Celtics completely lost their composure late in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics held a 13-point lead midway through the final frame of Game 5, only to crumble as Trae Young led the Hawks all the way back to hand Boston a stunning 119-117 defeat.

There were plenty of moments over the final two minutes in which they Celtics withered under the escalating pressure. Jayson Tatum picked up a technical foul swatting a ball away after the whistle that allowed Young to hit three consecutive free throws to put Atlanta ahead. Marcus Smart contributed to Boston’s demise too, getting called for a moving screen and fouling Young at half court with the Celtics up one to put the Hawks star at the free-throw line.

That all left Mazzulla calling it exactly what it was.

“If you don’t win and you don’t execute then, yeah, you lost your poise,” Mazzulla said. “I don’t think we were trying to do too much. Just didn’t think we were poised and didn’t execute well.”

The Celtics still had a chance to salvage a win even after Young knocked down a 30-foot 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to put the Hawks up two. But the Celtics, as they did throughout the final minutes of the fourth quarter despite their experience in these moments from last year’s run to the NBA Finals, looked disjointed and didn’t get up a shot attempt before the buzzer sounded.

Celtics star Jaylen Brown, who netted a team-high 35 points in the loss, saw how it all went down pretty much like Mazzulla did with the Celtics self-combusting and blowing a golden opportunity to move on to the next round of the NBA playoffs.

“I think that we had some bonehead plays, some fouls and gave then some opportunities to get going,” Brown said. “Just got to finish the game. … We just let the game get away from us a little. They just hit shot after shot. You give a team life, you leave it up to chance and that’s what we did tonight.”

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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