BOSTON — Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla is all ears whenever it comes to exploring new ways to improve the team and better position its overall growth towards returning to the NBA Finals.

Before Wednesday night’s matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, Mazzulla revealed that some NFL defensive schemes have been applied to Boston this season. He referenced Dallas Cowboys linebacker Michah Parsons and the Miami Dolphins as cross-sport influences that Mazzulla has eyed from afar.

“I am a football guy. You take a look at defensive schemes and their ability to pass guys off is something that I pay attention to a lot,” Mazzulla said. ”I think teams are getting really creative with their pre-snap motion, which is kind of the same way as manipulating matchups. You look at what Miami does with their pre-snap motion and kind of gain just a little bit before the ball is snapped and gets there.

“Like finding those small ways, we use some of the wide receiver routes for our plays. So it’s just any sport that you can delve in from, I think you can learn something. So I definitely pay attention to it.”

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That attention to detail on all fronts has paid off, so far.

Boston’s rarely found itself out of a game, despite what its 12-9 road record might suggest. Aside from their most recent (135-102) loss to the Bucks in Milwaukee, in which Mazzulla pulled out all of the starters by halftime in, the Celtics have held their ground with just about everybody in the league.

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Having that routine reliability to compete is exactly why Boston president of basketball operations Brad Stevens pulled — what seemed like — risky offseason triggers in trading for Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. Since then, both moves have panned out marvelously and continue to improve the Celtics overall, both offensively and defensively.

Boston ranks second and leads the Eastern Conference in defensive rating (110.6) this season, 17 spots ahead of the second-place — and 19th-ranked — Bucks. Derrick White and Holiday also lead in the East in blocks, ranked first and third, respectively, among all NBA guards.

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Tipping his cap and vocalizing his support for newly-hired New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo, perhaps a few more trips to Gillette Stadium are on the agenda before the Celtics embark on their playoff hunt.

In the meantime, Boston can focus on maintaining its NBA-best and No. 1 seed in the East.

Featured image via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images