Imagine you took a young chef working in a typical Tex-Mex chain restaurant and a Michelin-rated chef in a posh upscale restaurant and switched places on a Cooking Channel series. That’s how I feel about the trainers in this series.
This isn’t meant to be a direct shot at Joe Mazzulla. He has many talents and Celts hired him for a reason. I just don’t think there’s as much experience and cycles as you’d like with the head coach of a title contender. None of this is new news.
Let’s go back to the analogy. Erik Spoelstra does masterful things with the ingredients he has been given. She mixes, matches and adds the right seasonings, and has a good sense of timing. But at the end of the day, there are really only a few basic ingredients to work with. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas and fajitas are just variations on the same few themes. At some point the menu just gets repetitive and boring.
Mazzulla, on the other hand, has a larger selection of top quality ingredients. There are dozens of different ways to use these ingredients, and he already has some signature dishes that have been hugely successful. Some didn’t turn out so well, but it’s also a learning opportunity for him.
Like any analogy, this one breaks down at some point. The “ingredients” on the Celtics have a lot more to say about the “dish” score, and the Heat also have some elite “ingredients”. But I hope you can work with me on a general issue.
As the series progresses, you can see the Celtics getting more and more comfortable with the different looks from the Heat throwing at them from both sides of the ball. Both Mazzulla and the team find their footing.
Heat’s zone defense is a little annoying at first. Not that the zones are truly unique, but the Heat run them more often than most teams and at the Elite level. Still, there are ways to exploit the zone, and the Celtics are more than capable of that. There are a lot of creative playmakers and shot makers on this team. Their versatility is their strength, they just had to find the right ways to attack.
With a different ball size, the Celtics measure Jimmy Butler’s pumping time. He’s smart enough to make a difference, but it’s getting harder and harder for him to work in the center of the post for this fading knight. The Celtics rush to help him and Bam Adebayo, turning them into bystanders and rushing back to push the Miami shooters off the line.
Mazzulla also seems to have discovered a knack for announcing timeouts to stop a run or give the team a needed reset when things go sideways. His rotations are limited and he has found the right mix of players for the series.
These are the kinds of adjustments that would have been nice to see earlier in the series, but better late than never. You knew there would be some games where Jimmy would look unbeatable. You knew Heat can be hot from the outside. We just didn’t know all this was going to happen in the first 3 games. Now we see the advantage of Celtics talent.
There is still absolutely no room for error. The Celtics have to play perfect if they want to stay alive. But there is more and more reason to believe that they have found the right recipe for success.
Let’s see what’s on the menu for Saturday night.