Exasperated by the Miami Heat cruising to a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, time is running out for Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla to repair what he confessed was a fractured locker room.
“Yeah, it’s why I need to be better to figure out what this team needs to make sure they’re connected by the time we get on the floor,” Mazzulla said after Boston fell behind by three games in the best-of-seven series.
Mazzulla faces a steep hill to climb, with 149 previous teams unable to climb out of a 3-0 hole in the NBA playoffs.
With Game 4 on Tuesday in Miami, there’s no time for the Celtics to create chemistry. Shooting the 3 at a better clip might solve a few of the team’s problems. They’ve shot 19 percent from 3-point range in the first three quarters of the three games completed in this series.
“I just didn’t have them ready to play,” Mazzulla said Sunday.
Jayson Tatum dropped 51 in the conference semifinal series finale to send the Philadelphia 76ers home. In Sunday’s must-win at Miami, Tatum had 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting, including 1 of 7 from 3-point range. He was asked postgame if the Celtics “gave up” emotionally in the third quarter when the Heat pushed the lead over 25 points.
“Yeah, tonight was tough. I think from the beginning of the game, we were turning the ball over. We didn’t shoot the ball well. They shot the ball extremely well. Just kind of felt like we never recovered, honestly. That’s on all of us as a unit. We didn’t play well at all. Obviously by the score, it showed.”
Tatum was asked if the Celtics have lost their defensive identity since the Philadelphia series.
“I think we’ve just got to be connected more. Five guys all on the same page, competing at the same level, talking, and just being there for one another,” Tatum said, pointing out those are traits he has seen from Miami. “Every possession is not perfect. You’re going to get beat. Mistakes happen. But we just have to do a better job of being there for one another, having each other’s back, and just being a little bit more connected on defense.”
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