Magic Johnson believes Joe Mazzulla chose the wrong course of action when the game was on the line for the Celtics on Sunday afternoon.
Mazzulla stuck with his no-timeout strategy at the most important juncture of Eastern Conference semifinal Game 4 between Boston and Philadelphia. After James Harden gave the 76ers a lead with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds left in overtime, Mazzulla let the Celtics play it out instead of regrouping and drawing up a preferred play. Unfortunately for the visitors, they weren’t able to get into their action quickly enough and Marcus Smart’s game-winning 3-point attempt didn’t leave his hand before the final buzzer sounded.
Johnson, a five-time NBA champion, thought Mazzulla should have put the game on pause before the Celtics tried to go ahead late in the extra frame.
“I thought Celtics Head Coach Mazzulla made a mistake not calling a timeout and setting up a play in the final seconds of the game,” Johnson tweeted after Philadelphia’s 116-115 win.
Of course, it became a lot easier to point fingers at Mazzulla once Boston lost. The first-year head coach also chose not to call a timeout before the final play of regulation, and the Celtics received a picture-perfect look for a potential game-winner. Smart, however, front-rimmed a shot from beyond the arc and gave new life to Joel Embiid and company.
Boston players themselves had no qualms with Mazzulla leaving the game with two timeouts in his pocket, and Jayson Tatum went as far as to say the no-timeout strategy is “empowering” to him and his teammates. It’s a tactic worth reevaluating on a game-by-game basis, but it wasn’t the reason the Celtics lost Sunday.