The effort from the Boston Celtics was questioned following Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Given the final score, it was easy to see why.

The Celtics got pulverized by the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at American Airlines Arena and were dealt the third-largest loss in Finals history with a 122-84 decision. The Mavericks avoided a sweep in the process, too.

But Mazzulla side-stepped questions about his team’s effort until he was asked pointedly to assess it.

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“It wasn’t as good as Dallas’s was,” Mazzulla told reporters, per league-provided video. “I thought theirs was a lot better.”

Mazzulla conceded that the Mavericks not only “outplayed” the Celtics, but played “harder” than them, too. It was clear from practically the opening tip and Boston’s lack of effort really came through in an eye-popping rebounding disparity.

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The Mavericks attacked the glass at both ends of the floor to control the game. Dallas outworked Boston repeatedly on the boards and finished with a 52-31 rebounding advantage. The Mavericks finished with 13 offensive rebounds, seven of which were hauled in by Dereck Lively II.

Mazzulla felt the Celtics were prepared for the moment but their effort certainly didn’t look like a team that had the opportunity to closeout the series and claim an NBA title.

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“The more I said it because you have to give them credit,” Mazzulla said. “It’s not about us. It’s about our opponent and having respect for them. And you have to give them credit for how well they played, and that’s the most important thing.

“So it’s less about us and more about how they played. They played well. They played hard. We have to be more disciplined in how we defend and attack them.”

Al Horford agreed that the Mavericks played harder with so much at stake for both teams. And that should sting the Celtics as they head back to Boston for Monday’s Game 5 with another chance at hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“Ultimately, I felt like they were the better team tonight,” Horford told reporters, per league-provided video. “We can say all these things about us. They played much better than us. They clearly outplayed us, and that’s tough to take but that’s the reality.”

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Featured image via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Images