Jayson Tatum defends Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla after Game 2 loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla has received plenty of criticism during the 2023 NBA playoffs for things like timeout usage, lineups, etc. Some of it is warranted, some of it isn't.
Mazzulla could have used a timeout or two during the Miami Heat's red-hot third quarter in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals during which they outscored the Celtics 46-25 en route to a series-opening victory. He also could have used Derrick White and Robert Williams a little more during the fourth quarter of Game 2 when the Heat were making a run.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
POSTGAME POD: Celtics with backs against the wall after Game 2 loss | Listen & Subscribe
But the players are ultimately responsible for the outcome of the game, and the Celtics have not performed at a high level in the fourth quarter of these first two matchups against the Heat. They are a minus-13 on 1-for-9 shooting with five turnovers during crunch time minutes in this series.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
"We got his back, he got ours," Celtics star Jayson Tatum said after his team's 111-105 defeat in Game 2. "Joe ain't missed no shots tonight. He ain't had no turnovers. I missed shots, I had turnovers. So, any time we lose I'm going to look at what I could have done better in order for us to change the outcome."
We could nitpick Mazzulla's decisions all day, but these players have to show more poise in high-pressure moments. The coach can only do so much.
"I think part of it is us, you know, we got to execute better," Tatum said. "We have had double-digit leads in both games and a turnover has changed the momentum or offensive rebounds led to a three has changed the momentum.
"So those plays right when we're up 12, when we could go up 15, 16, they go back down to -- they go on an 8-0 run and now it's at four, and now the momentum has shifted. So, we've been up and we got to do a better job of making those, I would call them winning plays in those situations."
The Celtics have to win four of the final five games of the series to return to the NBA Finals. Three of the next four games are in Miami, where the Heat are a perfect 6-0 in the playoffs. Despite the 0-2 series hole, Tatum remains confident in his team's ability to bounce back.
"It's tough. It's a challenge. I mean, there's no point in being up here sad and [expletive], right?" Tatum said. "They came in and won two games. They played well, you give them credit. But we're not dead or anything. We got a great opportunity. I still have the utmost confidence, everybody has the utmost confidence. We just got to get ready for Game 3."