To begin with, the Boston Celtics had an inherent disadvantage that would cause them to perform poorly.
Prior to training camp, Ime Udoka, the man who had had such a profound impact on the team’s culture and guided them to the NBA Finals in his first season as head coach, was suspended for a whole year for having an improper connection with a woman inside the organization.
With an NBA-best 13-4 record and a quarter of the season in the books, Boston has shaken off the gloom of the preseason and appears like it can still seize its championship opportunity.
Joe Mazzulla, the team’s interim coach, has done a fantastic job despite being seen at first as a stopgap measure until it was determined whether and when Udoka would be able to return.
Jayson Tatum has looked like he wants to show that his poor performance in the playoffs last year was an exception. Plus, he has had a lot of assistance from his supporting cast, which has helped round out a club that hasn’t had the same late-game problems that plagued them last season.
When comparing the beginning of this season to the beginning of last season, “it’s night and day,” as Tatum recently put it. But ever since we made that adjustment, I don’t think we’ve looked back.
Monday in Chicago was the end of the Celtics’ season-high nine-game winning run. On Wednesday night, though, they’ll be back in the limelight against Dallas and league-leading scorer Luka Doncic.
One Mavericks player in particular has been unstoppable, scoring 33.5 points per game.
Tatum is right on his heels, as he ranks sixth in the NBA with 30.2 points per game while also leading Boston. He credits an offseason program he developed to help him play more physically with his career-high free throw attempts of 8.5 per game.
Having Jaylen Brown, who is averaging 25.3 points per game, on his team has helped him improve as well. They are leading a scoring unit that is second only to Sacramento’s in the NBA in terms of efficiency.
For the most part, we’ve got the same crew. Just a few of new players, but they know the game inside and out,” Tatum said. You simply have to trust each other from the first day of training camp on that when you pass the ball to someone else, it will eventually be passed back to you. That’s how we play, and that’s how we keep making baskets.
Malcolm Brogdon, a newcomer at point guard, has made an immediate impression. The second team has improved under the free agent’s leadership, and they now have more organization in the latter stages of games, which was occasionally lacking in previous seasons.
Mazzulla is proud of the way his players have applied their training in games.
“Guys understanding what we’re trying to achieve with our organization, with our game management,” Mazzulla said. What we’re aiming for are these photos. What we want to accomplish in terms of space and attacking matchups. It’s well-planned and really astute.
As a result, the coach has faith in his players.
When his squad has gone into problems, Mazzulla has generally taken a hands-off attitude, in contrast to Udoka or even previous coach Brad Stevens. He is sluggish to call timeouts when opponents are on scoring streaks.
All of his players have given him favorable feedback.
Those difficulties “push us not just for the circumstance at hand in front of us, but also challenges us to be better down the road,” Brown added. “Our crew is calm under pressure. Our head coach puts a lot of faith in us by leaving decisions like that up to us.
Plus, they’ve done it all without center Robert Williams, who had preseason knee surgery and is still recovering. His imminent comeback would be a welcome addition to an already potent squad.
Tatum believes that “offense is simply better” in general. “And then our attention to detail in reviewing video, controlling those late-game offensive scenarios, and sort of being purposeful about what we want to accomplish and who we’re trying to put in the action, etc. “It may seem random, but we discuss it and know exactly what we’re going for.”