Mazzulla worried about Celtics even before remarkable collapse
Joe Mazzulla could see the Brooklyn Nets' fightback coming even as the Boston Celtics led by 28 points on Friday.
The Nets produced the biggest comeback win of the season, tied for the biggest in franchise history, trailing by 28 midway through the second quarter but wiping out that deficit by midway through the third.
Brooklyn won 115-105 as the Celtics suffered their biggest collapse since blowing another 28-point lead against the Los Angeles Clippers in February 2019.
Yet Mazzulla had been concerned early on, with the Nets shooting 18.2 per cent from three-point range in the first quarter, showing the clear room for improvement.
The Celtics shot 44.4 per cent from beyond the arc over the same period, although they still only attempted nine threes. Only in five of their previous 51 first quarters had they attempted fewer, averaging 11.3 threes attempted in first quarters this season.
"I was actually worried, because we were scoring, but it wasn't because we were making shots," Mazzulla said. "It was because we were getting lay-ups.
"And they are a very analytically sound team, so I knew the tide was going to shift because they were going to continue to shoot threes.
"If we didn't play at a level of shooting threes and getting offensive rebounds and taking care of the ball, that was going to cost us."
Sure enough, as the Celtics made five-of-21 threes over the remaining three quarters (23.8 per cent), the Nets shot 12 of 33 (36.4 per cent).
Brooklyn's 44 total attempts from three tied their season high, and that volume shooting from deep made such a comeback feel far more achievable, according to Cam Johnson.
"It really does," Johnson said. "Especially when you know you're just messing up a lot, and that's the reason for it.
"In the NBA, leads aren't safe. Leads just aren't safe, you know? People go on runs. Sometimes shots go in, sometimes they don't.
"And so you've just got to stick to the script, keep your head down and keep working, and we had that effort across the board today and the result was a win."