Celtics’ Mazzulla watched decades of finals, gives keys for success




Celtics

“Once you get rid of the fact that you’re playing in the Finals, playing for the chance to win, it comes down to rebounding, transition defense, offensive execution.”

Joe Mazzulla has watched decades of Finals games in preparation for the Celtics-Mavericks series. (Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff)

Joe Mazzulla is taking preparation to a whole new level with his approach to the NBA Finals.

The Celtics coach told reporters on Friday that he’s been extensively watching previous years’ Finals games. And not just a handful. He’s estimating he’s watched most of the Finals games dating back to the early 1990s. That’d be well over 100 games of the highest level of basketball.

What did Mazzulla find in his deep dedication to these old tapes? Well, he listed a few key aspects that seem to be a recurring theme in every championship game.

“It all comes down to the same thing. Once you get rid of the fact that you’re playing in the Finals, playing for the chance to win, it comes down to rebounding, transition defense, offensive execution,” Mazzulla said. “… The team that’s playing the hardest, team that gets the most offensive rebounds. It’s simple. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not overly hard to do.

“… The things that go into winning at this level are very, very simple. You just have to do them with a high level of physicality and discipline.”

Mazzulla is entering his first NBA Finals as a head coach. He was an assistant on Ime Udoka’s staff that made Boston’s most recent trip in 2022, though, so he still has a feel for the challenge ahead of this team. He’s also the youngest coach to make the NBA Finals since Bill Russel did it over 50 years ago.

While Mazzulla lacks experience in this situation, and by most standards coaching in general, it’s clear he’s doing his part to prepare for the task at hand. He’s steadily pushed the idea that the most important game is the next one, and is now just four more ‘next ones’ away from bringing Boston its first NBA title since 2008.

The Celtics host Game 1 of the NBA Finals at the TD Garden on Thursday.





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