Boston Celtics

Joe Mazzulla tried to block a Suns player's shot, and C's loved it

'That’s who Joe is.'

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The Boston Celtics played some strong defense against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

That includes their head coach.

After the Suns called a timeout late in the fourth quarter following Jaylen Brown's highlight-reel steal-and-slam, Phoenix forward Royce O'Neale casually hoisted a dead-ball 3-pointer near the Celtics' bench. But Mazzulla wasn't having any of O'Neale's attempt and actually leaped toward O'Neale to contest his shot, which clanged off the rim.

So, what exactly was a coach doing trying to block an opposing player's shot after the whistle?

"I saw a guy going in to try to get a shot and he hadn't made one and I didn't want him to feel good about himself going to the bench," Mazzulla explained after the Celtics' 127-112 win. "... That's a bench rule. Guys don't shoot shots in front of our bench to go back to their bench to feel good about themselves. If I'm gonna ask the guys to contest, the staff's gotta do the same."

That may seem like a silly request, but Mazzulla definitely isn't joking: During a Jan. 30 game against the Indiana Pacers, Celtics assistant coach Sam Cassell ran to the opposite corner to contest Buddy Hield's post-timeout 3-point attempt.

Mazzulla believes the extra-curriculars are mind game worth playing.

"I think that’s important,” Mazzulla said. “It’s a little gamesmanship, but you can’t have guys going back to the bench feeling good. One of the biggest pet peeves is just thinking that a guy is going to get a free shot and that’s not the way it works. There’s been times that we’ve missed it and I’ve held the staff accountable to it."

Mazzulla's players seem on board with their coaching staff's aggressiveness. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown smiled when asked about Mazzulla's contest on O'Neale (who finished the game 0 for 7, for the record) after the game.

"That’s who Joe is," Tatum said. "So when he did it, I wasn’t caught off guard. I expect him or one of the coaches to do that. Gotta love Joe for Joe."

"If the guy keeps trying to shoot, Joe will just keep playing defense,” Brown added. “He’ll take it as far as he needs to. I missed that one. I wish I would’ve seen it, though."

Mazzulla's defense definitely surprised O'Neale, who admitted he "didn't know what (Mazzulla) was doing" and wondered aloud if the C's coach should have gotten a technical foul. O'Neale's comments are sign the tactic worked: There's no let-up when you play the Celtics, even after the whistle blows.

"I don't think I've ever seen a coach contest a shot," former Celtics guard Eddie House said on Celtics Postgame Live, as seen in the video above. "Not in a game situation like that.

"... Real talk, you've got to love that if you're a player, though."

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