Celtics Notes: Joe Mazzulla Believes Boston’s Struggles Vs. Heat ‘Mental’

'It's definitely mental'


May 20, 2023

BOSTON — The Celtics provided a metric ton of lip service following their Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat, claiming the soft start to their Eastern Conference finals series came down to a lack of desire to do the little things.

Well, what do you know, the Celtics failed to respond in Game 2 and crumbled on the TD Garden floor at the feet of the Heat.

There’s no more excusing Boston’s play. The Celtics and Heat have played in the conference finals in three of the last four seasons, so two-consecutive losses can only mean one thing: The C’s issues are mental.

Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla was even asked if he believed that’s what was wrong with his team, giving a surprising but honest answer.

“I think — it’s a series of discipline and a mindset,” Mazzulla said postgame. “So, yeah, it’s mental from the standpoint of who can make the right plays at the right times, who can make the simple plays, who can win those details and those margins. So, yeah, it’s definitely mental.

“… It comes down to the details and the margins. So, we have to when we get a stop, when we force them into a difficult shot, we have to get the rebound. When we have open shots, we have to take them. When we draw two, we have to pass it. So, this is a series of discipline and mindset, and there were times throughout the game where we weren’t the more disciplined team.”

The first two games of this series were punches to the mouth from Miami. Not only did the Heat walk into Boston and steal one game, they stole both. Additionally, Jimmy Butler punked Grant Williams and Jayson Tatum failed to provide an offensive spark in the fourth quarter.

The early response was… well, at least something. The Celtics are going to need to actually show some fight in Game 3 if they hope to make this a series, however.

Here are some more notes from Celtics-Heat Game 2:

— Tatum joined exclusive company with his 34-point performance, becoming just the third player in NBA history to reach 2,100 playoff points by their 26th birthday. The other two, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, are Kobe Bryant (2,694) and Kevin Durant (2,109).

— The Celtics made a lineup adjustment coming out of halftime, opting to go with Derrick White over Robert Williams to start the third quarter after going double-big to start the game. Williams, who finished with a team-low 23 minutes among those who played, finished with 13 points, three rebounds and two blocks. White finished with 11 points and two blocks of his own.

— Caleb Martin was incredible off the bench for Miami, scoring 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting in 32 minutes. The Heat were still a net-negative off the bench, though. Cody Zeller and Kyle Lowry had 2 points in 27 minutes and were a combined minus-31.

— Butler and Williams got into a kerfuffle in the fourth quarter, sparking the Heat’s come-from-behind victory. There were plenty of thoughts from the whole situation.

— The Celtics will head down to Miami hoping to avoid falling into a 3-0 deficit to the Heat. Game 3 is set for Sunday with tip off scheduled for 8:30 p.m. from Kaseya Arena.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum
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