Friday, May 19, 2023

Marcus Smart gives take on Celtics disastrous third-quarter, defends Joe Mazzulla

The Celtics had quite a disastrous third-quarter of the Eastern Conference Finals opener, that cost them a potential 1-0 series lead against Miami Wednesday night at TD Garden.

With a nine-point advantage at halftime, Boston watched the Heat use a 19-9 run to start the third on their way to get outscored 46-25 to end the period and eventually grab a 123-116 victory.

While the C's finished with the second-highest defensive rating in the league during the regular season, there has been plenty of lapses on defense since the start of the playoffs. Marcus Smart didn't hold back when giving his take on the team's inconsistencies.
"We get tired of doing the little things sometimes," Smart said in his postgame presser. "I think that showed at times in our spacing. We have a lot of great players, but when we're all on top of each other, nobody can be great. 
"You've got a good defensive team like Miami, they'll make you pay for that. So we've got to make sure we do those little things and we can't get bored with those. And we've got to realize what has got us the lead or what was working for us."
While Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla didn't call one timeout in the third quarter, Smart believes his teammates are to blame in this instance and not the coaching staff for the loss.
"Joe's real big on not bailing us out when we're playing like shit," Smart said. "We've got to look at ourselves in the mirror. Joe can call a timeout and then what? We come out and do the same thing? So it's on us.

"Joe and this coaching staff, they put in a lot of work to come up with a game-plan and put us in the right spots to succeed. But they're not out there playing. So we've got to come together and we've got to start helping each other out on both ends."
 Despite trailing 103-91 heading into the final frame, Boston used a quick 7-0 spurt to get within five, only to have the Heat's Erik Spoelstra call an immediate timeout 90 seconds into the fourth quarter. The closest the C's got was four points with less than five left to play, but too much Jimmy Butler -- who had a game-high 35 points -- kept the home team at a distance the rest of the way.
"[We] lost our game-plan discipline," Mazzulla said to reporters. "Allowed them to get out in transition and get second-chance shots. Didn't guard the three-point line."
Smart was one of the few bright spots in the Celtics loss, dishing out 10 dimes in the first half to tie Rajon Rondo's franchise record for assists in one half of a playoff game. He finished with 13 points, 11 assists, and two steals. But, when it comes to defensive intensity and effort, the veteran point guard there has to be better execution on that end.
"The only thing we need to adjust to is picking up our physicality and playing some damn defense," said Smart. "That's the only thing that switched. They didn't change anything from the first half that they weren't doing. They just upped their physicality. Nothing technical, X's and O's. It's just coming out and guarding your yard."
Against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second-round, the Celtics held the Sixers to under 90 points in three out of the seven games played, but yet in Game 1 against the Heat, they reverted to some bad habits once again.
"It's a choice. It's a decision," Jaylen Brown said in postgame comments of Boston's physicality. "Just come out and play with a different mentality. We came out too cool. It was almost like we were playing a regular-season game. It’s the Eastern Conference Finals. Come on."
The Celtics will look to even up their best-of-7 series Friday night when they host the Heat in Game 2. TNT has the tip-off at 8:30 ET.  

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of NBC Sports

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