Boston Celtics

Mazzulla details exchange with Bulls coach, mindset toward In-Season Tourney

Mazzulla had an interesting in-game conversation with Billy Donovan.

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The Boston Celtics went into Tuesday night's In-Season Tournament game against the Chicago Bulls needing to win by at least 23 points, while also needing the Brooklyn Nets to beat the Toronto Raptors, to move on to the quarterfinal.

The Celtics did just that, blowing the Bulls out 124-97, led by a combined 51-point scoring effort from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Nets also defeated Raptors, finalizing the Celtics' position at the top of their group for the In-Season Tournament.

Following the game, C's head coach Joe Mazzulla was asked if he got excited towards the end of the game, realizing they were within striking distance of surpassing the 23-point differential they needed.

"That's what gets me excited, low points per possession, the process towards winning, finding small ways to try and win, those things are cool," Mazzulla responded. "It's not that I don't think the In-Season Tournament is fun, or it's important, but there's a process. Like, go back to the Orlando game -- are we going to rebound just because it's an In-Season Tournament game?

"I don't want our guys to have that type of mindset, or that type of environment. We have to rebound every single game, and if we truly care about winning, and the process towards winning, we'll do it in a preseason game, in an In-Season Tournament game, a regular season game -- that's the mindset you have to create. It's because of habits and a mindset, and we have to keep those things going all the time."

The Celtics took a 113-96 beating from the Orlando Magic in the group stage and were out-rebounded 48 to 31 in that loss. What Mazzulla is preaching is that he doesn't want the players to fall into a trap of caring about one game more than another. Each game is a stepping stone to help them get to their final goal of raising Banner 18, and they all require full effort.

"It's a process," Mazzulla added on how he knew it was time to put the foot on the gas during a blowout. "I took in all of the information, and I didn't handle it emotionally. I don't know going into a game that we are going to be up 23, we could be down 15, because that's a distraction, trying to be up 23. You have to eliminate distractions and focus on winning, and the process towards winning. That's the most important thing, our team was focused on winning."

Early in the fourth quarter, the Celtics intentionally fouled Andre Drummond despite having a 32-point lead, causing Mazzulla to speak with Bulls head coach Billy Donovan at half-court. With this being the inaugural In-Season Tournament, teams aren't used to still giving 100 percent in a blowout, but with the needed point differential, the Celtics never took their foot off the gas, which rubbed Donovan the wrong way.

"Ok, you're at 30 [for a point differential], what do you want to do?" Mazzulla added. "I want to get stops. So, then you do what we did [the hard foul on Drummond], and I apologized to Andre Drummond for doing that, but it gave us the best chance considering the circumstances we were in."

A reporter then jumped in to notify Mazzulla that the Nets had won, meaning the Celtics had won their group and would advance, to which the Celtic coach was quick to respond.

"So without worrying about it, we advanced, think about what the process does, look at that," Mazzulla said. "Process over results."

Mazzulla also clarified that Donovan thought Boston only had to win by 22, not knowing they also needed Brooklyn to win. Mazzulla also told Donovan that they had to keep playing hard to help give the Celtics the best chance to win and advance in the In-Season Tournament. Mazzulla made sure to give credit to the Bulls' coach for being so understanding of the rather awkward situation they were in.

The Celtics will look to carry their winning ways into Friday night as they take on their conference rival Philadelphia 76ers at 7:30 p.m. ET. Boston's In-Season Tournament action will resume Monday night on the road in a quarterfinal matchup against the Indiana Pacers.

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