Boston Celtics

Mazzulla's terse comments suggest Celtics are locked in for Game 5

The Celtics head coach has no interest in looking past Monday night.

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After the Celtics' blowout loss to the Mavericks in Game 4 of the 2024 NBA Finals, Mavs head coach Jason Kidd noted Boston entered the game "ready to celebrate" while Dallas was more focused on the task at hand.

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla seems intent on making sure that doesn't happen again.

When asked Sunday what it would mean to him to join a "special fraternity" of coaches to win a championship in Boston, especially at such a young age -- at 35, Mazzulla would be the youngest head coach to win a title since Celtics player/coach Bill Russell in 1969 -- Mazzulla made a hard pivot to the present.

"That will never happen if you don't run back on defense, rebound, execute and get to your spacing," Mazzulla responded. "That's the most important thing."

The Celtics fell short in essentially all of those areas Friday night in Dallas, where the Mavs outrebounded them 52-31 and poured in 122 points, the most Boston has allowed in regulation this postseason.

The good news for C's fans? Mazzulla's club has a track record of bouncing back from ugly losses.

Boston was a perfect 3-0 during the regular season following games it lost by more than 15 points, with an average margin of victory of 16 points in those contests. This postseason, the Celtics followed their 10-point loss to the Miami Heat in the first round with a 20-point win in Game 3, then followed their 24-point second-round loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 13-point victory in Game 3.

If history repeats itself Monday night in Game 5 at TD Garden, the Celtics will be NBA champions. But Mazzulla's players are taking a page from their head coach's book and doing their best to stay in the moment.

"You can't take it for granted. It's going to be difficult," Celtics wing Jaylen Brown said Sunday of the lessons his team can take from Game 4 into Game 5. "You're going to have to fight and just stay in the moment.

"That's what matters the most: We come out and be a team. Win as a team, lose as a team. Just come out and be the best versions of ourselves."

Part of what's made the Celtics so great this season is their ability to not let losses snowball; they've only lost back-to-back games on three occasions and have yet to lose three games in a row en route to a 79-21 overall record.

That starts with the tone their head coach sets -- and which could deliver Banner 18 as soon as Monday night.

"I think the most important thing is our process toward getting better has been the same whether we have won or lost, whether we have won big or lost big," Mazzulla added.

"We have always tried to find the 10 or 12 possessions we can get better at and find the things we did pretty well and how can we do those more. I just kept a consistent process toward our postgame retrieval, and then how we grow with that heading into the next game."

Game 5 tips off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday, with Celtics Pregame Live beginning at 7 p.m. from TD Garden.

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