Is Joe Mazzulla to blame after Celtics' Game 5 loss? Marcus Smart defends coach
Is Mazzulla to blame after Game 5 loss? Smart defends Celtics coach originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Joe Mazzulla has been thrown into the fire in his first NBA postseason, and he's already feeling the heat.
The Celtics' first-year head coach took the blame for failing to call a timeout on the final possession of overtime in Boston's Game 4 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, then took more criticism after his team came out flat at home Tuesday night in an explicable Game 5 loss.
Fans and media lamented Mazzulla's inability to make the proper adjustments in the Celtics' 115-103 defeat, and All-Star wing Jaylen Brown even noted the team's lack of organization on offense after Game 5. But Boston's longest-tenured player, Marcus Smart, doesn't believe Mazzulla should be the scapegoat.
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"We get so much s--- talked about us as players, and we need to be held accountable. The coaches, too," Smart told Heavy.com's Steve Bulpett after Game 5. "But just because things aren’t going right, it’s not just one person’s fault. It’s not (Mazzulla's) 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."
Smart added the Celtics still "believe in Joe to the fullest" and "haven't lost faith" in the 34-year-old, who is by far the youngest coach remaining in the NBA postseason. But even Smart admitted the C's have been outmaneuvered from an X's and O's standpoint in this series to date.
"It’s not that we’re not sticking with stuff," Smart added. "We’re playing against a really good team, and it’s all about adjustments in the playoffs. They’re doing a really good job of adjusting. We’re not. We have to figure it out. That’s the thing, the playoffs are different. It arises different obstacles for you. You’ve just got to maneuver them correctly."
To Mazzulla's credit, adjustments helped power the Celtics to wins in Games 2 and 3, as Boston upped its defensive pressure on James Harden and made a concerted effort to cut back on turnovers. The C's have looked overmatched on both ends in Games 4 and 5, however, with Philly repeatedly exploiting Boston in the pick-and-roll on offense and keeping the Celtics out of the paint on defense.
Mazzulla said the Celtics had the "right intentions" to play hard after Game 5, but intentions didn't help them avoid a 3-2 series deficit. If the Celtics want to keep their season alive by winning Game 6 in Philly on Thursday, they'll need Mazzulla to draw up a better game plan and have their players execute with more purpose.