Celtics grind it out in playoff preparations

Alder Almo - Philstar.com
Celtics grind it out in playoff preparations
Sam Hauser (No. 30) of the Boston Celtics high-fives Luke Kornet (No. 40) during a timeout during the second quarter against the Washington Wizards at the TD Garden on April 14, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Brian Fluharty / Getty Images / AFP

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey – The Boston Celtics plunged into what their 35-year-old coach Joe Mazulla called the “training camp for the playoffs” during the one-week lull between Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs and their regular season final game. 

“You got to re-establish the habits and the things you build throughout the year, at the same time, don’t take them for granted,” Mazzulla told reporters following Tuesday’s practice (Wednesday Manila time). “So, I thought the guys did a good job, with the physical and mental approach to a day like (Tuesday). And today’s like the first day of a long journey, however long that may be. So, I thought we came with the right mindset.”

Veteran guard Jrue Holiday, who is in his first season as a Celtic, described Mazulla’s “crazy drills” in detail. 

“Full court, no dribbling for two minutes, three minutes, something like that,” Holiday told reporters. “That was one of the first drills we did, and I don’t think we expected that. A lot of stuff was definitely to kind of get our wind and kind of learn how to play with each other without necessarily dribbling the ball.”

The Celtics were the only team that reached 60 wins this season, finishing 64-18, as they secured homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. 

They are the overwhelming favorites to win the title. 

DraftKings, the leading sportsbook in Massachusetts according to MA Betting, pegs the Celtics as a +145 favorite with the defending champion Denver Nuggets a distant +300 favorite. 

A Celtics-Nuggets NBA Finals series isn’t far-fetched with the way the two teams played this season. While the Nuggets failed to secure the top seed in the West, they have been one of the top clutch teams this season. 

The Nuggets open the playoffs with a grudge rematch against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. On the other hand, the Celtics are expected to breeze past a Jimmy Butler-less Miami Heat team.

Despite the odds favoring them, the Celtics are coming into the playoffs with a different mindset after they fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals last season against the Heat coached by Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra. 

“Last year, we weren’t good [in the playoffs when it counted], and this year feels different the way that we’ve been playing at home,” Celtics veteran big man Al Horford told reporters. 

The Celtics own the best home record this season, losing only four times in 41 games. But they have been combatting complacency head-on through Mazulla’s tough practices to keep them sharp and focused for the playoffs. 

“We have an understanding that we have to come out and play and perform,” Horford said. “I think last year we kind of leaned on, you know, we’re at home and the fans are kind of going to put us over the top.

The mindset probably wasn’t the best that it needed to be. I feel like now we understand that we have to come out ready to go. Just because we’re here at the Garden doesn’t mean we’re going to win automatically. We’ve done a better job of that this year.”



Alder Almo is a former senior sportswriter for Philstar.com and NBA.com Philippines. He is now based in Jersey City, New Jersey, and writes for the New York-based website Heavy.com.

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