BOSTON — The Celtics needed to trounce the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night in order to clinch the Eastern Conference’s Group C and advance in the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament.

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said before the matchup that he didn’t want his players distracted by the point differential Boston needed to advance, but ended up having to defend his decision to keep his starters on the floor late in the game to Chicago coach Billy Donovan.

“It’s not that I don’t think the In-Season Tournament is fun or it’s important, but there’s a process,” Mazzulla said. “You go back to the Orlando game, we got to rebound just because it’s an In-Season Tournament game? I don’t want our guys to have that type of mindset for that type of environment. We have to rebound every single day.”

Mazzulla added: “If we truly care about winning and the process towards winning, we’ll do it in a preseason game, in an In-Season Tournament game, in a regular-season game. So that’s the mindset you have to create. Did we just not decide to rebound against Orlando or not play harder in the third quarter because it was an In-Season Tournament? No, it’s because of habits and a mindset and we have to keep those things all the time.”

Story continues below advertisement

No Matchup Found

Click here to enter a different Sportradar ID.

The Celtics needed at least a 23-point win over the Bulls and with the game steadily at hand, Boston actually ran up the score instead of sitting its starters. Is that a good look for the NBA?

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Jaylen Brown after the win said the game felt “a little weird” and elaborated further about playing hard even with seven minutes left in the game and Boston up 32 points.

“It’s tough because that’s just not how the game is supposed to be played,” Brown said. “When you gotta respect your opponents, too, this is a weird setup. We understand the rules, but if I was the other team I would be upset.”

Story continues below advertisement

There’s usually respect for the opponents when a team is in the midst of a blowout victory. Coaches will sit starting players, not just to stop scoring at will, but also to ensure they won’t get injured when it’s not necessary for them to be on the court, along with allowing bench players to get some minutes.

Brown added that he understands the league is trying to initiate more intensity in early-season games and spark a higher level of competition, but there might be areas of improvement.

“Personally, I don’t really have a comment on it,” Brown said. “I think the agenda has been to try and increase competition and to increase revenue to make it more exciting during this time. I don’t have a comment but I will say honestly, if it’s a line between increasing excitement, revenue, notoriety and compromising … at the end of the game it’s a balance. This is the first step. I’m sure there will be a lot of conversations going around on that, but that’s all I’ll say about it.”

The Celtics could have taken their foot off the gas, but instead, Boston not only poured it on offensively but decided to use Bulls center Andre Drummond as a means to an end by sending the big man to the free-throw line repeatedly in the final quarter.

Story continues below advertisement

“OK, you’re at 30, what do you want to do? I want to get stops,” Mazzulla said. “So then you do what we did, and I apologized to Andre Drummond for doing that, but it gave us the best chance considering the circumstances we were in.” 

The Celtics ended up winning the contest by 27 points and securing their spot in the knockout round of the In-Season Tournament.

Point differential has been used to settle tiebreaks in other leagues, but this is the first time it’s been utilized in the NBA and the players don’t appear to be too supportive of it.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images