How Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla Defended Timeout Usage After Game 1 Loss

Mazzulla's timeout usage continues to be a storyline


May 18, 2023

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla previously acknowledged a time when he should have called timeout and didn’t. It’s fair to assume, however, Mazzulla won’t be doing the same in the hindsight hours after Boston’s Game 1 loss in the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.

In the third quarter Wednesday night, the Green’s once 12-point lead disappeared in less than three minutes before the Heat poured on another run and took a 12-point advantage into the fourth quarter. Mazzulla’s timeout with 6:28 left in the stanza was sandwiched in between. All in all, the Celtics were outscored 46-25 in the frame, which played a key factor in their Game 1 defeat at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

Mazzulla opted to call one timeout midway through the frame.

The first-year Celtics coach, who has been consistently criticized for his timeout usage, defended his decision after the game. Mazzulla, who got into a snippy exchange with a reporter about a separate topic, was terse on this subject as well.

“I called two (timeouts) in the first quarter,” Mazzulla told reporters, per CLNS Media, referencing the first which came as the Celtics led 16-15 with 5:55 left in the quarter and the second when Miami led 26-25 with 2:51 remaining.

When pressed on not doing so in the third, Mazzulla responded: “I don’t call two in the first quarter, save it for the third-quarter run.”

The fact Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called a timeout less 94 seconds into the fourth quarter, after the Celtics opened with a 7-0 run and cut Miami’s advantage to 103-98, surely added to the storyline. Miami came out of that timeout and again pushed its lead, proving a successful momentum stopper.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart didn’t have a problem with Mazzulla not using timeouts to rally the Green. It’s up to the players to figure out, Smart said, echoing a notion Mazzulla has continued to live by and players continue to hear.

“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror,” Smart told reporters, per CLNS. “Joe can call a timeout, and then what? We come out and do the same thing? It’s on us.”

Many will view Smart’s point as a valid one. Others, however, will continue to criticize Mazzulla, who took plenty of heat from fans in defeat.

Mazzulla and the Celtics will have the opportunity to redeem themselves Friday night when they host the Heat for Game 2 at TD Garden. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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