Boston Celtics

Mazzulla's explanation for coaches blocking shots makes perfect sense

Unfortunately for Mazzulla, he's no longer allowed to contest opponents' shots during timeouts.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla went viral last month when he tried to block Phoenix Suns forward's Royce O'Neale's shot. The attempt came after a timeout was called, so it's not like Mazzulla was interfering with play, but it did spark some debate over whether coaches should be doing that.

A few days after that March 15 win for the Celtics, Mazzulla revealed on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak and Bertrand show that he was told to stop trying to contest opponents' shots after whistles.

The topic came up again this week when Mazzulla did an interview with the Barstool Sports podcast Pardon My Take. In an episode published Friday, the Celtics coach explained why both he and his staff would contest opponents' shots during timeouts.

His reasoning actually makes perfect sense.

"That's 'Art of War' at its finest. Like, I don't understand how you could give your opponent any opportunity to feel good about themselves on your half of the turf," Mazzulla said.

"We've been doing that for two years. It started last year, where in Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell took a free throw and one of my assistants just watched them and I berated him. I was like, bro, what are you doing? You can't allow the best player on the other team to just take a shot in front of -- I don't think there's anything more insulting than allowing your opponent to do that.

"So, we just put a stop to it from there on out. We've had four or five really, really good closeouts by the staff, and unfortunately (the one in the Suns game) was on live TV and people saw it, so we can't do it anymore."

With the margin in pro basketball being so slim, Mazzulla was looking for any type of edge possible.

"It's a gamesmanship thing. NBA basketball is competitive," Mazzulla said. "I just think you have to find any little advantage that you can. So I'm not going to let a guy -- and he hadn't been shooting the ball well the entire game, so what if that one kind of gets him the rhythm that he needs to make one?"

Mazzulla's defensive intensity seems to have spread to his players this season. The Celtics tied for the league lead with 6.6 blocks per game, and they ranked No. 2 in defensive rating (110.6). If the C's maintain that elite level of defense in the 2024 playoffs, they'll be very tough to beat.

Game 1 of the Celtics' first-round series is Sunday at TD Garden. NBC Sports Boston's coverage begins at noon ET with Celtics Pregame Live.

Contact Us