Boston Celtics

Mazzulla: Mavs' effort ‘a lot better' than C's in Game 4

Dallas forced a Game 5 with a 38-point blowout win on Friday.

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Early in Game 4 of the 2024 NBA Finals, it was evident the Boston Celtics had their work cut out for them if they hoped to complete a series sweep.

The Dallas Mavericks came out firing and jumped out to an early 13-point lead. They set the tone with stellar defense and key contributions from role players -- something they lacked in the first three games of the series.

Their lead widened to 26 points at halftime and ballooned to as many as 48 in an emphatic 122-84 win. The 38-point discrepancy marked the third-largest margin of victory in Finals history.

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After the game, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla heaped praise on Dallas for an utterly dominant performance.

"You can definitely take some things from it, but at the same time, I thought Dallas played great," Mazzulla said on whether the C's had anything to gain from the loss. "Give a lot of credit to them. You know, all their guys, whoever went in, well-balanced.

"Thought they played with a ton of energy and physicality. You've got to give them that. And they are a great team, and that's Dallas. That's the reason why they are here when they play like that. But you can definitely take some stuff from it."

On multiple occassions, Mazzulla has preached the importance of winning the "margins." The Celtics were outclassed in those areas on Friday.

The Mavs won the rebounding battle, 52-31. They had a 16-2 edge in second-chance points and more than doubled Boston's points in the paint, 60-26.

Mazzulla said his team's poor performance wasn't a matter of unpreparedness. Rather, it was the Mavericks having a higher sense of urgency.

"Preparation doesn't guarantee an automatic success," he said. "And so I thought we had a great process. I thought we had a great shootaround. Thought we had a great film session yesterday. I thought the guys came out with the right intentions. I just didn't think it went our way, and I thought Dallas outplayed us. They just played harder."

Most of Mazzulla's press conference was spent crediting Dallas. To wrap up the session, he was asked to more specifically sum up his team's effort.

"It wasn't as good as Dallas' was," he said. "I thought theirs was a lot better."

The numbers agree. Boston's 36.3 field goal percentage marked the lowest in NBA Finals history. Its 84 points were its lowest total of the entire 2023-24 season and playoffs.

The Celtics will now look to close out the series on their home floor Monday night. Tip-off for Game 5 at TD Garden is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

Coverage begins on NBC Sports Boston at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live.

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