Boston Celtics

Mazzulla gave Celtics a fitting message before crazy win over Pistons

The C's head coach prepared his team to expect the unexpected Thursday night.

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Who saw that coming?

A matchup between the NBA-leading Celtics and a Pistons team riding a 27-game losing streak turned into a rock fight at TD Garden on Thursday night. Detroit surged to a 21-point lead before Boston stormed back to force overtime and grind out a 128-122 victory, which handed the Pistons their 28th straight loss to tie the longest losing streak in league history.

Few expected the Pistons to even compete with the Celtics on Thursday night, much less take a 19-point lead into halftime as 17-point underdogs. And few expected Detroit to keep swinging late in the game, with Bogdan Bogdanovic forcing overtime on a game-tying putback with 4.6 seconds remaining.

But Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla prepared his team to expect the unexpected on Thursday night.

"I think everybody comes into a game like this and it’s like, ‘Oh, the Celtics are playing the Pistons, they should win the game and they’re gonna win the game.' And they look at the record and they create this emotional mindset of like, ‘Oh this is easy,'” Mazzulla told reporters after the game.

"Nobody’s probably watched five or six Detroit Pistons games and see how hard they play and how talented they are. Just because they’re 2-and-whatever, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been in 10 close games that they could’ve won if the ball bounced their way.

"... I think if you manage your expectations, it allows for you to execute and play with a free mind. That's what I told the guys before shootaround. I was like, 'You can't have any expectations for how you think this game is going to go. We just have to be ready to adapt, and do what's necessary.'"

Mazzulla's message couldn't have been more accurate, as this game defied all sorts of expectations. After enjoying historic offensive success on its four-game West Coast trip, Boston committed 10 turnovers and missed 20 3-pointers (4 for 24) in an ugly first half as the Pistons raced out to a double-digit lead.

But the Celtics indeed were ready to adapt and indeed did what was necessary in the second half, cutting down on the turnovers -- only two in the final 29 minutes -- and ratcheting up their defensive intensity to pull off the comeback win.

"We knew, even without words being said, we knew we had to come out with a different kind of mindset, a different kind of energy in the second (half) and have each other's backs and trust each other," Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis said of Mazzulla's message to the team at halftime.

"Joe said the right words for us, and that was it. Came out looking like a different team."

After improving to 9-2 against teams below .500, the Celtics will face another squad with a losing record Friday night when the Toronto Raptors visit TD Garden. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Boston.

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