Boston Celtics

Mazzulla details how Celtics manage ‘extremely unhealthy' expectations

"There's this sense of entitlement where we're just supposed to play amazing basketball."

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When you're the best team in the NBA, you're expected to win every time you take the floor. Joe Mazzulla wants to unpack that.

Despite entering Monday night's game at TD Garden as 8.5-point favorites, Mazzulla's Boston Celtics trailed the New Orleans Pelicans by as many as 17 points before rallying to pull off a 118-112 victory. But the Celtics head coach wasn't interested in talking about Boston's sluggish start as much as the sky-high expectations his team faces every night.

"I think it’s just this general narrative of like, it’s supposed to go our way all the time," Mazzulla said in his postgame press conference. " ... There’s like this sense of entitlement where we’re just supposed to play amazing basketball every quarter, every game,” Mazzula said. “And that’s just not how it works.

"… This expectation of, it’s supposed to go a certain way all the time, it can be extremely unhealthy, and we have to just continue to play regardless of whether we’re down five, up eight -- it doesn’t matter."

Mazzulla said he noticed his players' poor body language at halftime with the Celtics trailing the Pelicans by 10. So, he gave them a reality check.

"Being down 10 in the NBA is really not, like, foreign to the 99 percentile of the NBA. That happens all the time. So at halftime, I said that. I was like, 'What are you doing? It’s a 10-point game. It’s three possessions. It’s an NBA game.' The idea of having to go battle for a win, like earn a win, it’s like, 'The Celtics have to earn a win tonight? Like, yeah. We’re playing in the NBA. It’s a good team.' We can’t lose sight of the fact that we have to earn a win every night."

With a six-game cushion atop the Eastern Conference and the NBA's best point differential (+9.5), the Celtics haven't faced a ton of adversity this season. But being the top dog comes with its own challenges: Opponents generally give you their best shot, and you open yourself to criticism if you don't handle that best shot with ease.

"Teams, they've got the Celtics circled on their schedule," Celtics wing Jaylen Brown said after the game. "There's an honor in that, but there's also humility in that and a respect level in that, that we've got to come and put our best foot forward every night."

Jaylen Brown shares his thoughts on the Celtics needing to keep their focus night after night when getting a team's best shots every game. Jaylen says it's an honor, but also leads to a sense of humility that winning in the NBA is hard.

Managing lofty expectations is a first-world problem for the C's, and almost all of the NBA's other 29 teams would love to be in their position. It's Mazzulla's job to make sure his players stay the course and focus on playing the right way -- and on Monday night, his work paid off.

Boston is back in action Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden, with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Boston.

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