Look, before I start this blog, I want to preface it with something. Joe Mazzulla did not make himself the head coach of the Boston Celtics. He was not the one who made former coach Ime Udoka have an affair with a team staff member.
Mazzulla was thrust into this position in unfortunate circumstances. He was never supposed to be the man to lead this team to victory. That man was supposed to be Udoka.
I’m sure Joe is a nice enough guy. Perhaps he can be a successful NBA coach, too. Not here, though. Certainly not now.
Right now, Mazzulla serves as an epitome of failure for the Boston Celtics. A team once ripe with potential and upside, now face an uncertain future. Not all of that blame can be placed at the feet of Mazzulla, but most of it can.
I mean, how else can you really explain it?
In science, you learn of something called “cause” and “effect.” It’s a basic principle that really everything in life is adherent to. I’m not going to sit here and fully explain the principle of causation. That’s what Google and the education system are for.
Simply put, everything in life has a rhyme or reason to it. Things don’t just happen without their being an action that cause that event to happen. So, in the case of the Boston Celtics, a team that was two wins shy of a title last year doesn’t just self-destruct without causation.
Sure, a lot of blame, like I said before, should be thrown at Ime Udoka. If he had not acted immorally in the workplace, he’d still have his job. Boston wouldn’t have skipped a beat.
Yes, blame certainly can be thrown at the players. Afterall, Mazzulla didn’t shoot 11 for 42 from beyond the arc in a pivotal Game 3. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown shot a combined 12 for 35 from the field in a must-win situation. The team’s two best players shrunk when they were needed most. That’s on them ultimately.
At the end of the day, though, Mazzulla is the main culprit to Boston’s demise. I mean, listen to Mazzulla in the post-game presser. He straight up said it.
"I just didn't have them ready to play"— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 22, 2023
Joe Mazzulla took the blame for Boston's Game 3 loss pic.twitter.com/ovoEhaeQHv
I give him credit for owning up to it and biting the bullet. That’s not exactly easy to do that on a national stage. Especially with a fanbase as passionate as Boston’s. The funny thing is, he’s actually being straight up truthful.
Mazzulla has absolutely lost this team. The players don’t look energized. They don’t look suited for battle. The most important game of the season, and they played with absolutely no sense of urgency.
They look unprepared and unorganized. Even when they have played well in spurts in this series, they immediately go ahead and choke it away.
Worst of all, when Miami goes on these long runs of dominance, Mazzulla looks like a deer in headlights. The man has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. Just look at the fourth quarter of Game 2 and tell me I’m wrong.
Boston lead 89-79 in the fourth. Miami outscored them 32-16 the rest of the way. Boston could not stop the bleeding whatsoever. It was a meltdown of epic proportions.
I’m not even asking for major adjustments. Simple things, like knowing when to use a timeout, just don’t register with Joe. That’s a problem that’s been there since the beginning of the season.
Earlier in the year, it was fine. Learning curve of being a head coach. As the year went on, it continued, and you still chalked it up to hey he’s learning. He’s now been a head coach for 98 games, including playoffs.
By now, you’d think he would have the timeout thing figured out. Nope, same old Joe. It’s infuriating how many times this season Boston has finished close games with one or more timeouts just resting in their back pockets.
How many late games Boston lost because instead of taking a timeout and drawing up a play, he left it in the hands of the players. Go back to the Sixers series, there’s a couple of examples.
Beyond the timeout thing, what about the whole Grant Williams debacle in Game 2? The guy was out of the rotation for a reason. Not only is he in late in the game, but you allow him to face up Jimmy Butler defensively. Read that sentence again and tell me if that sounds right.
If you think it sounded okay, then you may have a chance to join Mazzulla’s coaching staff in Boston.
One bucket wasn’t enough. Two buckets wasn’t enough. No, you let Jimmy Butler continue to cook for what felt like an eternity before you finally made a change. By that point, it was too late.
Choking leads late in the game is usually a sign of one of two things. The first is an inexperienced team. We know that’s not the case with Boston, except for really Mazzulla. This team is more than battle tested.
The other sign is of poor coaching. Ding Ding Ding, I think we have a winner! You’re prize is a 0-3 deficit to an 8-seeded team! Congratulations!
Do you know why Miami has looked so good despite there being a huge disparity in talent? Coaching. System. Culture.
Erik Spoelstra doesn’t get enough credit. The man might be the best coach in the NBA. Yeah, they have stars like Butler and Bam Adebayo. The rest of the team, though? A bunch of washed-up up vets, underachievers, and undrafted free agents.
Hell, two of their better role players, Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro, aren’t even playing. Boston, at full strength, is playing a depleted Heat team that wasn’t very deep to begin with.
Yet Miami has abused them this series. Why? Coaching, Spoelstra has coached circles around Mazzulla. He makes adjustments constantly, even when things are going well.
Joe Mazzulla when Erik Spoelstra— Jamal (@FinessedBuckets) May 22, 2023
the Heat go on a when Boston
20-0 run. cuts a 20 point
lead to 17. pic.twitter.com/emU3JohKEu
System, Mazzulla has no system. Certainly not on defense. The best defensive team in basketball last season can’t stop anything or anyone, like in Game 3, for example. Offensively, it’s just shoot a bunch of threes and hope Tatum and Brown go off.
Culture, this one’s amusing. Miami has the kind of culture Boston THINKS it has. Work hard, limit mistakes. Smooth ball movement that leads to open looks. Miami plays how Boston used to play. Not anymore though.
It’s sad, because Mazzulla started off so damn strong. He was an All-Star coach for crying out loud. The fairytale seemingly came to an end, though. The carriage turned back into a pumpkin (Cinderella reference? Get my classic Disney movies mixed up).
I really don’t know what’s next. Rumors are already swirling Mazzulla could be on the way out. I personally think he should, but it’s a tough decision either way.
Big roster changes are coming. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart could be gone. It’s all one great big mess. It’s an absolute failure, one that Joe Mazzulla is unfortunately the face of.