Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla will soon embark on his second playoff run since taking over at the helm in Boston, only this time, the expectations have risen even higher than last season.

This doesn’t bother Mazzulla, even the slightest.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Mazzulla told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand” on Wednesday. “… I couldn’t imagine having a job where I wouldn’t wake up and want to be the absolute best at it. And so, whatever happens this season, you have to wake up the next day and start getting ready for the next thing. Yeah, there’s pressure, I put it on myself every single day, to be the best coach, to win, to be the best husband, to be the best father.”

Mazzulla and the Celtics aren’t the same team as last season. Flawed in multiple areas, such as the defensive identity, depth and issues at the one and five, the 2023 wasn’t a given. That doesn’t negate from the fact that even with Marcus Smart running the point and an aging Al Horford at center, Boston severely underperformed from the first round against the Atlanta Hawks.

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But now, the Celtics are significantly more polished, well-oiled and better equipped than any other season under the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown era.

Boston’s lost no more than twice consecutively through its first 80 games. The teams held on (tightly) to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference since Nov. 14, and the newcomers — Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday — have been as close to perfect in getting acclimated to Mazzulla’s roster as can be. There are virtually no gaping holes to point toward this go-around. The Celtics validated themselves as the team to beat in the regular season, but still need to perform under the bright lights once the playoffs begin.

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“Yes, there’s pressure, there’s expectations but that will never go away,” Mazzulla added, per 98.5 The Sports Hub. “If you ask Dan Hurley, who’s won two (NCAA national titles) in a row, you don’t think he’s gonna put pressure on himself to win the next one? It’s always gonna be there. I think that’s been the coolest moment about this job is finding the freedom, and the peace, and the love, and the joy of that pressure.”

Winning 60-plus games and clinching home-court advantage are great in-season achievements worth commending. Only a handful of instances can be picked out of the entirety of Boston’s season where the Celtics didn’t perform, including throughout Tuesday night’s 104-91 loss to the Bucks — a possible playoff opponent in the upcoming weeks.

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So far, Mazzulla has embraced the postgame bullets extremely well, while the team has responded, losing no more than twice consecutively. Maintaining that level of poise and dominance is the next task for Boston. With Holiday locked into a four-year extension on Wednesday night, the pressured Celtics team has plenty to be confident about moving forward.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images