Celtics Notes: Tatum, Mazzulla, Porzingis, Stevens

Celtics All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum told reporters that Boston, now leading the Mavericks 3-0 in the Finals, is hardly satisfied after the team nearly surrendered a 21-point second half lead in Game 3 on Wednesday night, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

As Tatum notes, Boston itself fell into an 0-3 hole against the Heat during the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, and ultimately pushed Miami to seven games. Tatum sprained his ankle during the first quarter of that Game 7. The Heat eventually won and advanced to the Finals.

“We really felt like we were going to come back,” Tatum said. “We almost did. You know, we were a sprained ankle away from having like a real shot. So, you know, we are not relaxing or anything like that.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Second-year Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla‘s unique approach to the game has the club on the verge of capturing its record-setting 18th championship, notes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “Anytime you’re developing a new philosophy or a new style, it just takes time for understanding and execution,” Mazzulla said. Per Weiss, Mazzulla’s philosophy is all about preparation, as well as read-and-react basketball in a variety of situations. As Steve Buckley of The Athletic adds, Mazzulla rose quickly in the ranks from a second-row assistant coach under former head coach Ime Udoka to his current position. Mazzulla takes an unorthodox approach to his film sessions with his team, going so far as to use UFC clips to motivate players.
  • Some of Celtics coach-turned-team president Brad Stevens‘ less heralded team-building transactions have helped pay dividends for Boston as the Finals have worn on, according to Brian Robb of MassLive.com. With starting center Kristaps Porzingis out in Game 3, Mazzulla opted to use deep-bench reserve big Xavier Tillman behind newly elevated starter Al Horford. Tillman delivered, notching one critical three-pointer, four rebounds and two blocks. Robb also lauds Stevens for his decision to keep the faith in Jaylen Brown, who was frequently mentioned as a possible trade candidate for a more established star earlier in his career.
  • Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t able to play in Game 3, but there’s a chance he’ll be available in Game 4, Shams Charania of The Athletic said on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link). Mazzulla stressed that Boston’s commanding 3-0 lead won’t impact whether or not Porzingis will try to play on Friday, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link). Porzingis is dealing with a posterior tibialis dislocation in his left leg, suffered during Game 2. The 7’2″ center did get an opportunity to put some shots up during practice on Thursday while wearing a brace on his left ankle, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (Twitter links).
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