What Joe Mazzulla Told Celtics About Game 4 No-Timeout Strategy

Mazzulla knows he made a mistake


May 9, 2023

Joe Mazzulla made a bold, late-game decision Sunday night at Wells Fargo Center, and it ultimately doomed the Celtics.

After James Harden knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds left of overtime in Eastern Conference semifinal Game 4 between Boston and Philadelphia, Mazzulla chose not to call a timeout and let the visitors play it out with the game on the line. The Celtics ended up with a decent look at a potential game-winner, but Marcus Smart’s 3-point attempt left his hand just a second too late.

Speaking with the media Monday, Mazzulla acknowledged he should have called a timeout when Boston’s final play started to take too long to develop. On Tuesday, Malcolm Brogdon revealed that message was conveyed to Celtics players, as well.

“Yeah, Joe came to us and said the same thing about how he should have called a timeout,” Brogdon told reporters, per a video shared by CLNS’ Bobby Manning. “That’s his call, he’s the coach. It’s his call whether or not he feels like we should be able to get it done and play in the rhythm of the game and finish the game without a timeout or call a timeout. He let us finish the game. He trusts us. At the end of the day, Joe trusts us. He has a confidence in us to make the right plays at the end of the game. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There are always going to be fingers pointed from whoever, but that’s an in-the-moment call. We trust Joe and Joe trusts us.”

This postseason is kind of trial by fire for Mazzulla, who’s taking his first kick at the can in the NBA playoffs. But as the opening contests of the Celtics-76ers series proved, the 34-year-old is capable of learning from his mistakes and making the proper adjustments.

As such, Celtics fans should feel confident about Boston’s prospects for the remainder of the best-of-seven set, including Tuesday night’s Game 5 at TD Garden.

Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images
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