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Jayson Tatum, Kendrick Perkins differ on Joe Mazzulla’s late-game strategy vs. Heat

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Perk disagrees with Tatum on Mazzulla’s late game strategy against the Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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Joe Mazzulla The aversion to timeouts is well documented, but it could have cost his team a chance to win Tuesday night in Miami.

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The Boston Celtics were shorthanded by two points behind the Heat with 20 seconds left at the FTX Arena after Bam Adebayo hit a 12-foot jumper over Payton Pritchard. Most head coaches would have called a time-out in such a situation to bring the ball halfway to a draw, but Mazzulla decided to leave it at that.

Result: Jason Tatum dribbled the ball up the floor and then made a wild pass from a double-team Miami that Tyler Herro parried to to seal the victory in the hit 98-95.

So why not take a time out to play better? Mazzulla said he enjoys playing on the floor and doesn’t want to give Miami the chance to replace top defensemen.

“What I really knew was absolute,” Mazzulla told reporters after the game. “Certainly we had the ball in the hands of our best player. I knew that because of their attacking line-up they would play in that cover. I just didn’t name the right game. best interval for him to see it better.”

Tatum sided with his head coach, approving Mazzulla’s decision to leave things as they are.

“We didn’t want them to necessarily set up their defenses during the timeout, so I think it made sense not to announce the timeout,” Tatum said. “Obviously it’s on me. They trust me in this situation to make the right play, whether I play two teams or not. I can’t let us down like that and not even give us a chance to win the game.”

On Celtics Postgame Live, however, Brian Scalabrine, Eddie House and Kendrick Perkins were less forgiving. All three agreed that Mazzulla should have called a timeout – if not immediately, then at least when Tatum began to slowly drive the ball across the floor.

“Joe Mazzulla, as soon as he sees it, ‘Oh, we’re dribbling the ball around the court,’ yells out there,” House said. “You have to communicate: ‘Finish (half-courts) very quickly and we’ll take a time out.’ You must save seconds. When you lose in a game, the most valuable thing is the seconds on the clock. You should try to get a few looks, because then you have the opportunity, if you miss, to play foul play.”

Perkins was more blunt in his opinion, insisting that Mazzulla should have called a timeout right after Adebayo’s bucket.

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“Possession should not have happened because (Mazzulla) should have called a time-out long before that. You have two timeouts. What are you trying to do, take them home? For what?” Perkins said.

“You have the opportunity to announce a time-out, take a good look around, save time. When you lose, you want to save as much time as possible to give yourself the opportunity to win. Now you can draw. something faster outside of the timeout and take a good look at the basket… I just didn’t like the whole thing.”

Mazzulla has largely avoided criticism this season, leading the Celtics to an NBA-best 35-14 record. He’s certainly not flawless, though, and the way Tuesday night ended, as well as Boston’s inability to adjust to Miami’s zone defense in the fourth quarter, opens the door to some doubt.

However, the Celtics still lead the Eastern Conference by 3.5 games, so Mazzulla and his team can afford to use Tuesday as a learning experience going forward.


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