What Fiery Joe Mazzulla Told Celtics During Momentum-Building Timeout

Boston responded with a 16-6 run over the next five-plus minutes


May 15, 2023

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla raced out to the center court logo Sunday and let Scott Foster’s crew have it.

The show of frustration from the typically reserved Mazzulla came immediately after Derrick White was called for a questionable foul on James Harden just 1:51 into the second quarter. The Celtics already trailed their winner-take-all Game 7 by five points and Harden’s ensuing free throws were sure to extend Philadelphia’s advantage.

Mazzulla, a documented believer in momentum, could feel it swinging toward the Sixers so he called a timeout — it also gave him an extra few seconds to berate the officials.

“Just building awareness to how the game’s going,” Mazzulla said after Boston’s 112-88 victory, citing his message to the team. “I think in a game like that the guys are so focused on playing hard because they want to win that you lose sight of the reality sometimes.

“So just building an awareness like, ‘Hey, here’s really how the game is going. We got to shift it. We got to shift the momentum. We have to get it back.’ And the guys did that.”

The Celtics responded with a 16-6 run over the next five-plus minutes. The stretch erased Philadelphia’s nine-point advantage, its largest of the game, and helped Boston take a 55-52 lead into the half.

“Just (told the players) we needed to stay the course,” Al Horford told reporters of Mazzulla’s message, per The Athletic’s Jay King. “Both teams came out hitting. They kind of hit and made a run. And he just kept perspective for us.”

The surge never really stopped. Boston outscored Philadelphia 33-10 in the third behind dominant defense on Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum scoring 17 of his record-breaking 51 points in the quarter. Between that third quarter and Tatum’s superstar display, Mazzulla’s timeout and the second-quarter run largely will be overlooked.

Now the Celtics get set for their fifth appearance in the last seven Eastern Conference finals, and it might very well be rooted in that momentum-building turn.

Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images
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