Sunday, May 21, 2023

Jayson Tatum defends Joe Mazzulla following Celtics Game 2 loss

The Celtics are trailing 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2017, following their 111-105 loss in Game 2 Friday night at TD Garden.

In the worst possible case scenario for Boston, who have dropped back-to-back at home and are now 4-5 in the postseason on their own parquet, the C's are not pointing the finger at anyone -- especially not at head coach Joe Mazzulla -- but themselves.
"We got his back, he got ours. Joe [Mazzulla] ain't miss no shots tonight," Tatum said in his postgame presser. "He ain't had no turnovers. I missed shots, I had turnovers. So, anytime we lose I'm (gonna) look at what I could’ve done better, and in order for us to change the outcome."
Mazzulla, like Tatum -- who didn't hit a single field goal in the fourth quarter for the second straight time in this series, also got his fair share of criticism for the Celtics loss in Game 1 at home and how he watched his team lose a lead yet again and not call a single timeout. Both games saw Jimmy Butler spark a furious comeback rally for the Heat, to which Boston was unable to recover from.

In Game 2, the Celtics had a 89-77 lead with 10:35 left to play, before Miami went on a 34-16 run the rest of the way to upset the home team.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown both failed to come through in the final frame -- as both All-Stars combined to shoot 1-of-8 with eight points -- Tatum scored all five of his points from the free throw line, while Mazzulla had a timeout left that went unused -- watching another opportunity slip away.

Despite Tatum scoring a game-high 34 points and going without a made field goal in the entire fourth quarter, the All-NBA forward isn't hitting the panic button just yet.
"I mean, it's tough. It's a challenge," Tatum said Celtics facing an uphill battle. "I mean, it's no point in being up here sad and shit, right? 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."
The Celtics look to avoid a 3-0 deficit when this best-of-7 series shifts to Miami for Game 3, which is scheduled to tip-off Sunday night at 8:30 ET on TNT.  

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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