Joe Mazzulla breathes trust: Boston Celtics weather the storm in Pelicans win

The Boston Celtics were able to overcome adversity against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, November 18 to win their ninth straight game Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Celtics were able to overcome adversity against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, November 18 to win their ninth straight game Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /

In the first quarter, it looked like the Boston Celtics were going to run away with its ninth consecutive win in convincing fashion, but in the end, the Pelicans had other plans. Jaylen Brown continued to fill up the bucket, but he began to revisit some of his tendencies from last season, turning the ball over in live-ball situations, and letting the opposition run out in transition. His seven turnovers, including three in the third quarter, brought the Pelicans back into the contest.

Joe Mazzulla stays firm on his belief in letting his team play through adversity, and once again, the interim head coach’s strategy survives to live another day. In addition to the timeouts, Mazzulla is still learning when it is time to conserve minutes for his superstars throughout the game. Both Brown and Jayson Tatum are in the top 15 for average minutes played per game with Tatum sitting in second in the NBA, behind only Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell.

At the end of the day, a win is a win, and while two of the last three contests have not been the prettiest of results, Boston found a way to win — and that is a sign of this Celtics team building those championship habits 16 games into the campaign. 17 turnovers were the most in a single game since the loss to the Cavaliers at home when Boston committed a season-high 19. Up by as many as 19, the Boston Celtics returned to some of their old habits, but through some clutch shots by Derrick White, and one by Grant Williams, Boston was able to outlast a viable playoff team from the Western Conference.

In three out of the last four games now, the Celtics have held the opposition to under 110 points. Over the last five contests, Boston is top-seven in defensive rating in the NBA, as the Celtics’ defense continues to look more and more dialed in as the season goes along. Boston is currently 14th in defensive rating, but just a few games ago, the Celtics were sitting between 22 and 24.

Following the Boston Celtics’ ninth straight win, Mazzulla explained his timeout strategy, stating:

"“I think you have to go through that as a team…You have to build an awareness for the team as to what’s going on. Sometimes, I like the fact that we have to execute through a run instead of calling a timeout. So it’s a feel thing. There’re a lot of times for when you have to do it. But in order for us to be a great team, we have to handle those situations. We got to build an awareness; we got to know how to execute.”"

The Boston Celtics have been winning in ways they might not have used to

There can be a whole lot of nit-picking when discussing a gritty win like this, but once again, this was a triumph last season’s Boston Celtics team would not have been able to muster. Seeing White with a full offseason under his belt in Boston opened up the former Spurs guard to act as one of Boston’s most crucial contributors. His 45.4% from beyond the arc combined with his aggressiveness to get the basket creates space for others and allows players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to not have to be on their “A” game each night out.

Being able to weather a storm of stretches that do not look like Celtics basketball this early in the season is a sign of both growth and a team that has confidence in everyone around them. Boston has a chance on Monday to take the season series lead from the Bulls after dropping the first contest in Chicago. A lack of assertiveness on the glass on top of two straight poor quarters in the shooting department caused Boston’s downfall. Behind Tatum, and Malcolm Brogdon, the Boston Celtics were able to rebound back at the Garden. The next four games are against teams that are all in the top seven in their respective conferences at this point in the season. Boston has faced challenges head-on so far this season, whether it’s injuries or finding a way through a poor spell of play during a game, but this next run of games is going to tell a whole lot about what this team is made of.

How long does Joe Mazzulla’s trust in his player going to last? Is there going to be a point where the minutes continue to decrease from Boston’s top players? These are just a few questions that are lingering over this red-hot Celtics team, but when it comes down to it, blowing a large lead on the road, and finding a way to hold on serves great long-term purposes. Luka Doncic or DeMar DeRozan may have stretches against Boston in the coming games where they offensively take over, but what the Celtics showed over the past week is that not much is going to phase the progress of this team. From an individually brilliant performance to even self-inflicted mistakes, the Boston Celtics continue to discover ways to execute when they need it the most.