Joe Mazzulla Stressed This One Thing To Celtics After Game 1 Win

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The Celtics scored 107 points, rained down 16 3-pointers and led by as many as 29 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. It was Boston’s defense, though, that paved the way for a series-opening win.

Aside from one Luka Doncic-fueled run in the third quarter, the Mavs struggled to find any consistent offensive output Thursday night at TD Garden. Doncic scored a game-high 30 points, but he had to work for every single one of those, while Kyrie Irving had a forgettable night, scoring 12 points on 6-of-19 shooting (including 0-for-5 from three) without attempting a free throw. Making matters worse, the dynamic Dallas duo combined for seven turnovers between the two of them.

It is only one game, and the Mavericks probably will see the shots start to fall at some point — they were 7-for-27 from deep — but it’s largely a testament to the defensive game plan orchestrated by Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla and carried out by his players. Boston threw various looks at both Doncic and Irving, while also limiting Dallas’ role players in the process. In a lot of ways, it was the perfect performance with Boston holding the Mavs to just 89 points — their lowest offensive output of the playoffs.

We have to maintain that high level of defense and over the next few days, we clean up our offense. Our defense is going to win this,” Mazzulla told the Celtics in the locker room after the game, as seen on ESPN.

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The aforementioned Doncic outburst in the third was the only real defensive blemish for Boston. Still, Mazzulla liked how his team responded even after the Mavericks cut the deficit to single digits in the third.

“They cut it to eight, and we got right back in it. The key is knowing why they go on a run and how we stop it as a team and then maintain our defensive physicality as a team,” Mazzulla added. “So, great job.”

The Celtics’ depth is what allows them to play with that sort of physicality and intensity. Mazzulla took full advantage of his ability to rotate players in and out of the lineup while varying looks. It also helped to have Kristaps Porzingis back in the mix with the 7-foot-2 big man offering a sizable insurance policy at the rim.

The Celtics will try to maintain their defensive prowess Sunday night in Game 2 at the Garden.

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