Celtics Notes: Mazzulla, Holiday, Porzingis, Horford

Joe Mazzulla‘s pregame warning was prophetic and now it appears the NBA Finals could become a competitive series, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. With a chance to sweep and claim their 18th championship Friday night, the Celtics only managed to keep things close for a few minutes before being mauled by Dallas.

“The closer you are to beating someone, the closer you are to getting your ass kicked,” Mazzulla said in a session with reporters before the start of Game 4. “Tonight I expect the best out of Dallas, and we got to get ready for a fight.”

The fight was never close, as the Mavericks took control of the game midway through the first quarter and didn’t let up on their way to a 38-point victory. Dallas used a much more physical approach on defense, Weiss observes, finding success by challenging Boston’s ball-handlers and funneling them into Dereck Lively II. Offensively, the Mavs rediscovered the spacing that got them past their Western Conference opponents, effectively creating corner threes for the first time in the series.

“I think winning at any game is hard. But winning Game 4 of the NBA Finals is pretty damn hard,” Jrue Holiday said. “I think they came out desperate and I think they punched us in the mouth, and we couldn’t kind of recover the way we wanted to.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Kristaps Porzingis was upgraded to available for Game 4, but he never left the bench and it’s not clear if Mazzulla would have used him even if the game had been close, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Porzingis sat out Wednesday night after suffering a posterior tibialis dislocation in his left leg late in Game 2, and Mazzulla said Friday that he would “only be used in specific instances, if necessary.” Terada notes that Porzingis didn’t take part in the pregame layup lines and remained in the locker room for about half of the third quarter. Terada describes the situation as “murky” heading into Monday’s Game 5.
  • Veteran center Al Horford had a unique perspective on Friday’s loss, pointing out that it’s the first time the Celtics have really been challenged in the series, Terada adds in a separate story. “I’ve been in a lot of these, and usually by the second game, you’re making adjustments,” Horford said. “Third game, you’re making another adjustment, and that’s kind of how it is. And for us, we’ve had the first three games, we didn’t really make any adjustments. So today, they did something. We have to see how we can be better and prepare for it. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
  • Eli Cloutier of The Boston Globe puts Game 4 into historical perspective, noting that it’s the third-largest margin of victory in the NBA Finals.
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