MassLive's Brian Robb believes that Joe Mazzulla showed shades of Gregg Popovich during the Boston Celtics' 135-102 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum on January 11 by resting his players at the half when the team was clearly not going to make a comeback.
"...the biggest development on Thursday night was not the loss by the Celtics itself," Robb prefaced before saying, Instead, it was the strategic rest maneuver that Joe Mazzulla pulled in the second half. Rather than wasting minutes chasing an improbable comeback, Mazzulla simply elected to sit everyone in the second half. No starter played more than 21 minutes.
"This maneuver from Mazzulla showed shades of Gregg Popovich resting a contending Spurs squad amid a tough schedule stretch a decade ago. However, the idea of Mazzulla doing this even a year ago would have been far fetched. Back then, the rookie coach was riding his starters for big minutes in wins or losses, even playing them for long stretches in blowout wins to help them to run up big stats."
Coaching the key to bringing Boston Celtics roster together
There will be no blaming the bench for Boston's decimation at Milwaukee's hands on January 11. Simply put, the Bucks' starters came to play, and the C's most certainly did not; with just Jaylen Brown reaching double digits.
Games like this happen to just about every team, every season. And they're not an indictment of a coach as a loser. But what happens next in Boston will determine whether or not Mazzulla is a Popovicg-esque figure, i.e. a winning coach.
With the deadline weeks away, Mazzulla could either keep the peace and have his guys winning again; likely holding off any significant roster changes. Have the losses pile up for a second straight year following the calendar turning, though, and the current group could see a more groundbreaking roster change than what is planned.
Make no mistake about it, though: with the main pieces in place to win, at some point, the conversation will center around Mazzulla, who didn't see the same success as the first-year coach who took the team to the NBA Finals who preceded him.