In 2016 while he was working as an assistant for the Maine Red Claws of the G League, Joe Mazzulla was obviously keeping track of what the Boston Celtics, Maine’s NBA parent team, were doing. Mazzulla, who played college ball at West Virginia University, must have been paying particular attention on a Wednesday night in December when the Celtics suffered a 121-114 loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons despite launching 42 3-pointers. Of those 3-pointers, which constituted 46.1% of Boston’s shot attempts. only 15 went through the net.
In last night’s 106-103 loss to the 76ers, the Celtics also made 15 triples, although this time it was on 47 attempts (31.9%) and Mazzulla was behind the bench for Boston. How long Mazzulla will remain there, considering the Celtics have qualified coaching candidates including Jeff Van Gundy, Charles Lee and Sam Cassell already on the payroll, is anyone’s guess. Especially if Mazzulla engages in behaviors like bringing up articles written in 2016 to justify why nearly half of his team’s 91 shots in a 2023 game were from behind the 3-point line.
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Asked by Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who authored “Celtics going overboard on 3-pointers” in 2016, about his team relying too much on 3-pointers during Wednesday’s loss to the 76ers, Mazzulla responded with a trip down memory lane.
“I just finished reading a great article that you wrote in 2016 — ‘The Celtics shot too many threes.’ They shot 42 and that was seven years ago,” Mazzulla said. “We only shot five more tonight and they lost 121-114 (in 2016) and you blamed the offense, but not the defense. So, like, what’s your fascination with too many threes for the last seven years?”
The bizarre response, which never really answered why the Celtics kept taking triples without making ’em, prompted this exchange:
Washburn: “Well, it wasn’t seven years.”
Mazzulla: “Two-thousand-and-16. It’s 2023. I just read it. It was a great article.”
Washburn: “Thank you.”
Mazzulla: “Yeah. ‘Are the Celtics settling for too many threes?’ You said that seven years ago. You were ahead of the curve.”
As Washburn pointed out in 2016, the Celtics took too many 3-pointers for a team that lacked elite long-range shooters and would have been better served by trying to score from both inside and out of the arc. Although Boston has clearly made raining 3-pointers the central piece of their offensive blueprint this season, the same thing still applies in 2023. What else is the same with the Celtics between 2016 and 2023? They lost on a Wednesday night and Mazzulla noticed.
Given that he’s now the head coach of the Celtics instead of an assistant with the Red Claws, Mazzulla would probably be wise to stop looking back at 2016 and start looking ahead to figure out how his team, which is a legit championship favorite, can shoot fewer 3s and score more wins. If he doesn’t, Van Gundy, Lee and Cassell are waiting in the wings.