Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Joe Mazzulla admits he 'should've called' timeout at end of OT in Game 4

The Celtics trailed by one to the Philadelphia 76ers with 19 seconds remaining in overtime of Game 4 following James Harden's go-ahead corner 3-pointer.

Boston's head coach Joe Mazzulla, having two timeouts left, elected not to use any of them as he trusted his players to make the right play without the need to draw one up in the final moments.

While the C's got a good look, with Marcus Smart knocking down a wide open 3-pointer -- it was a split-second too late, giving the Sixers a 116-115 victory and evened the Eastern Conference semifinals 2-2.
"We were just trying to get the right guys in the right spots. We just went a little slower than expected," Smart said to reporters Sunday after Boston left too much time go before getting into their action. "We wanted to go really fast. They did a good job of getting their guys on the right people and making the play."
In the immediate aftermath of a missed opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead, Mazzulla held firm on the reason behind why he chose not to call a timeout, down only one, in the closing seconds of Game 4.
"That was the play. We just had to play with a little more pace," Mazzulla said in his postgame presser regarding his team's final possession. "We had the right matchup. Jayson got downhill and made the right play at the rim and we had to play with a little more pace there, but that was the play."
Even Jaylen Brown, who left Harden alone to double Joe Embiid in the paint before the Sixers guard caught a pass from the league MVP to knock down the series altering 3-pointer, took the blame for the defensive lapse and the Celtics loss.
"Just a bad read. That's it," Brown said during his postgame comments. "It's a gamble at the wrong time and big shot by James Harden. That's my fault. I took full accountability. Just a bad read."
However, less than a day later, it appears Mazzulla has buyers remorse -- while admitting he may have made a mistake at the end of OT of Game 4 by not calling a timeout in the final seconds.
"At the end of overtime, hindsight is 20-20," Mazzulla told reporters Monday afternoon. "I should have called it to help us get a 2-for-1 or get a couple more possessions. And so obviously with 14 seconds left, down one, you want to get as many chances as you can. Definitely learned from that."
The 34-year-old rookie head coach has been criticized all season for not calling enough timeouts and he stuck to his guns in Game 4, a lesson that may come back to hunt him and possibly cost the Celtics this series against the Sixers.
"It's something we've talked about all year," Mazzulla said. "I trust our guys to make the right play, prevent a team from getting matchups off the floor, preventing a team from getting their defense organized."
While Mazzulla may have made a mistake in a crucial moment, it was still up to the players to execute on the final play a lot quicker than they did, even if it was the right call to not let the Sixers set up their defense.
"I think the two lessons that you learn from that is call (the timeout) right away and get a 2-for-1," Mazzulla said. "Get two shots, get a couple extra possessions or we have to have a clear understanding as a team that we have to go fast to get a shot. We've done both over the course of the season, we just didn't execute either one in that particular situation. Once we are losing pace, I have to call it so we can get a shot up earlier."
In the two wins so far for the 76ers, Harden is averaging 43.5 points, while only putting up 14 in the Celtics two wins. Tuesday night's Game 5 will be a pivotal one for both teams, as they look to break a 2-2 tie in this second round best-of-7. TNT has the tip-off from TD Garden at 7:30 ET.  

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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