Another Eastern Conference Finals pairing between heat And Celtics It will be a match that will eventually turn on the stars of play like Jimmy Butler And Jason Tatum.
But Miami 123-116 The Game 1 win also showed how the tactical battle between rookie coach Joe Mazzola and his veteran counterpart Erik Spoelstra will play out is also a big factor.
The Celtics dominated the first two quarters on Wednesday night before trailing 46-25 in the third — the most points they’ve allowed in any quarterfinal in the past 25 years. Boston put on 103-91 holes that they never beat.
The game-changing offense also included a 13-1 Heat run to help tie the game in which Mazzola made the decision not to call a timeout, something that has become a recurring theme for him this season due to his preference to let the Celtics. Play through the rough patches.
“I don’t think it’s a challenge in the postseason, I think it’s human nature,” Mazzola said Thursday when asked about his team’s tendencies to succumb to team lead this season. “So how do you get out of that and win it and understand your environment and understand your opponent? It’s hard to do, but what we’re trying to do is really hard.”
After a streak where Boston fell to holes 0-1, the spotlight is once again on the 34-year-old, who was catapulted to his dream job in the preseason and is now trying to find new ways to motivate the team with championship prospects.
Spoelstra in Miami knows what it’s like to be in this situation.
Spoelstra, 52, grew up in the Heat’s organization, rising from video coordinator to assistant head coach at 38, then balancing the pressure of turning a team led by All-Stars. LeBron JamesDwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in back-to-back NBA champions.
Spoelstra admitted that he doubted himself at first, remembering how he was heckled in his first match in New York by Nix Fans who asked, “If I’m over my bedtime.”
“I was beating myself up a little bit,” Spoelstra said of his first season.
Likewise, Mazzola made no secret that he learned something in every game he coached.
Includes qualifiers. During the final series, Mazzola heard pleas from veteran Celtics captains to rejoin Robert Williams III in the starting lineup. He also apologized to the team for not calling a timeout prior to its final possession in the Game 4 overtime loss Philadelphia.
“He trusts us. At the end of the day, Joe trusts us,” Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon He said.
This humility is why Spoelstra respects what Mazzulla has done up to this point, by taking on the challenges of the NBA season.
“I think I’ve been through fire, going through trials,” Spoelstra said. “Every situation is different. So, I don’t know what it’s like in this locker room, this building. But I have a lot of respect for Joe. We have a lot of friends in common. We’ve seen each other a lot in [Florida] bubble. … We always looked like we were bumping into each other all the time.”
And now they’ve bumped into each other for the past three to four seasons.
While his team was an underdog this time around, as one of the league’s longest-serving coaches, Spoelstra once again proved just how good he is at getting the best out of his players.
Despite a slow start in Game 1, Spoelstra allowed Butler to set the tone throughout, including trusting his star player to guard Tatum, despite Butler dealing with an ankle problem that slowed him down in the previous round against New York.
The amount of energy Tatum had to expend increased and contributed to his not shooting in the fourth quarter, despite scoring 30 points on the night.
It is part of what has become the Heat’s culture under Spoelstra, teams led by stars but dependent on the group for ultimate success.
He said Butler sums it up.
“On the ball, off the ball, all that stuff,” Spoelstra said. “He settled us offensively. That’s a big part of us not turning the ball over, it’s just having a place where you can throw the ball and get more stability.”
However, Spoelstra expects Boston to respond in Game 2 on Friday. Not just because of the players on the field, but because of the guy patrolling the sideline.
Spoelstra said he can tell Mazzola has really grown as a coach.
“Go through it, experiment,” Spoelstra said. “This is the best thing. The most valuable thing. What he’s done this year is not easy. You definitely have to respect that.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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