Thursday, May 11, 2023

Marcus Smart on Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla: 'We haven't lost faith in him'

The Celtics are one game away from a second-round exit, following their 115-103 loss Tuesday night.

The team that finished with the league's second best record find themselves trailing 3-2 in the East Conference semifinals to the 76ers and many are looking to blame first year head coach Joe Mazzulla for their current crisis.

While Mazzulla did admit he committed a timely mistake during the closing seconds in overtime of a crucial Game 4 -- to which the C's loss, Marcus Smart believes that his coach his not the culprit of the team's two-game skid to Philly.
"We still believe in our coach," Smart said after Boston's Game 5 loss. "We believe in Joe to the fullest. We haven’t lost faith in him and we won't. He has a game plan; it's on us to go out and execute it. We’re the ones out there playing, so we’ve got to help him. He's been doing great."
Boston failed to execute down the stretch in their series opener at home and once again in Game 4 on the road, but according to Mazzulla, Game 5 stands alone as the worst performance of the postseason thus far.
"That was the first game of the playoffs that we didn't play well, in my opinion," Mazzulla said in his postgame presser. "So we can't lose our perspective of we played really good basketball. And that was our first really, really bad game of the playoffs. Doesn't come at necessarily the best time. But we just have to shift our perspective and get ready for the next game."
Ultimately, it's also up to the players to come out with a sense of urgency, which wasn't the case Tuesday night in a pivotal Game 5 with the series tied at two games apiece.

Jayson Tatum jumped out to another slow start (0-of-5 in the first quarter), Al Horford was 0-of-7 from 3-point range, while the guard trio of Smart, Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White were a combined 7-of-22 from the field.

Not to mention that the Celtics missed nine free throw attempts and only shot 39.8% from the floor overall.
"It's everybody. It happens," Smart said Tuesday night. "We get so much shit talked about us as players, and we need to be held accountable. The coaches, too.
"But just because things aren't going right, it's not just one person's fault. It's not his fault, and it's not my fault, it's not Jayson's fault, it's not Jaylen's fault -- it's everybody's fault. It's a full team, and we've got to figure it out together."
Boston is in the same predicament from a year ago when they also trailed 3-2 in the East semis to the Milwaukee Bucks, before they won in Game 6 on the road to force and win a Game 7 at TD Garden to advance to the Conference Finals.

Despite history being on their side, the Celtics are not banking on the same ending from last year to play out against the 76ers this time around.
"Last year's over with," Jaylen Brown said during his post Game 5 comments. "This year we gotta come out and be better than we were tonight or we'll have a different ending. Obviously, we are still in this series and we gotta muster up whatever we've got left to be better for Game 6."
Mazzulla and the Celtics look to extend their season tonight at the Wells Fargo Center, as tip-off is at 7:30 ET on ESPN

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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