Boston Celtics

Mazzulla not worried about late-game execution, sees ‘drastic' improvement

Head coach Joe Mazzulla isn't worried about the narrative that the Celtics can't close games.

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The Boston Celtics became just the 10th team in NBA history to blow a 30-point lead on Monday night, falling apart in the second half to give the Atlanta Hawks a 120-118 win. Fans and critics alike were quick to jump on the Celtics for failing to hold their lead, which has been a troubling trend in recent years.

Despite the hard-to-watch loss, head coach Joe Mazzulla stood firm in his opinion that the team's late-game execution has actually improved since last season, putting a focus on defense and execution.

"I think we cleaned [our late-game execution] up this year," Mazzulla said during his Wednesday appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak & Bertrand. "Our late-game numbers are higher this year than they were last year, so I think that's just a narrative that sticks around because we're doing everything else really, really well, and that's one of the easy things to pull from."

Boston actually has the fewest blown leads in the NBA with 14, with just eight blown leads of 10 points or more. With only 15 losses on the season -- also an NBA-low -- critics harp on the fact that most of their losses were at one point on track to be wins.

One could argue this critique of the C's is simply recency bias, as Boston recently blew a 22-point lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers as sharpshooter Dean Wade outscored the Celtics 20-17 down the final stretch.

"Our record in crunch time is better, our numbers are better this year," Mazzulla added. "If you watch all end-game situations around the league, it's about making shots and getting to the free throw line, and that's execution, but I think our execution at the end of games and in critical moments in the last five minutes has drastically improved because of the work our guys put in, understanding defense, and working on execution."

To Mazzulla's point, the Celtics are 20-11 this season in "clutch" situations -- score within five points within the last five minutes -- which ranks fourth in the NBA. The Celtics will have a chance for revenge against the Hawks on Thursday night in what will be their fourth straight game on the road.

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