LeBron James Calls Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla ‘(Expletive) Genius’

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Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla thinks about the game in a very cerebral way, and it’s starting to get attention around the NBA.

Mazzulla tends to be blunt in his news conferences and gives unique answers about Boston’s in-game situations. It’s clear the 35-year-old isn’t thinking about the game in terms of narratives, and his analytic approach helped the C’s reach the NBA Finals.

LeBron James and JJ Redick discussed Luka Doncic in late-game situations on their latest “Mind The Game” podcast this week.

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar pondered the idea of fouling late in the game when you’re up six since you’re preventing a potential comeback and you’re still making it a two-possession game. Redick pointed out to James that the Celtics did just that in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers.

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After Jrue Holiday hit two free throws, Boston was up 131-125 with 16.1 seconds to go in overtime. The Pacers got the ball up quickly, but the Celtics fouled T.J. McConnell, who made one out of his two free throws. The C’s hung on to win by five.

“This Joe Mazzulla guy’s a (expletive) genius,” James told Redick. “The more and more I talk to you the more and more I like this Joe guy. I see why he sits over there and he says absolutely nothing. And he’s calm as (expletive). He only gets a little … when he knows they’re not playing the right way offensively. It’s never defensively. It’s never the 3-point attempts. It’s never ever if the team makes a run. He’s calm. It’s only when they don’t play the game the right way he gets a little angry.”

Mazzulla’s sideline demeanor was an astute observation from James and one that can sometimes frustrate Celtics fans. But with the idea of fouling up six brought up, it’s something Boston could utilize to try to neutralize Doncic in crunch time.

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