Joe Mazzulla May 29, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla reacts in the second quarter against the Miami Heat during game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Things did not go well for the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat on Monday night. The Celtics were run out of TD Garden, losing 103-84 in a game that for all intents and purposes, felt over in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.

And their first-year head coach, Joe Mazzulla, is being heavily criticized.

When the game was over, TNT’s Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal both blasted the Celtics for seemingly lacking a game plan, opting to stick with their largely non-successful strategy of just jacking up three-pointers rather than trying to run plays for higher-percentage looks.

And while that can be seen as two former players who largely made their living in the paint not wanting to embrace the NBA’s more recent three-point trends, it can’t be missed that the Heat made five more three-pointers than the Celtics in Game 7 despite attempting 14 fewer.

But more than that, prior to the game, TNT played Mazzulla’s pregame speech to his team. In that speech, he told the Celtics “You better ******* smile. You better have the most fun you can. That’s the most important thing.”

As the game wore on, that speech became heavily criticized. Yes, there’s something to be said for the notion that “You don’t work basketball, you play basketball and if you play something, it should be fun.” But “You better have the most fun you can. That’s the most important thing” is a message that you might hear a coach of a youth team tell his or her team before a big game. It’s not a message you’d expect to hear a coach give to a professional team minutes before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

That was one of many things that basketball fans criticized Mazzulla about after the game ended.

Mazzulla was thrown into a tough situation this year. For most of the offseason, it was assumed that Ime Udoka would return to coach the team for a second year. But shortly before the season, a scandal broke around him, leading to him ultimately leaving the organization and not coaching at all during the season. Considering that, getting to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals — particularly after falling behind 3-0 in the series — is not a bad result.

But the Celtics definitely lacked a good gameplan, which contributed to Monday’s result. If the Celtics bring back Mazzulla, he’ll need to get better. If that doesn’t happen, next season will likely end disappointingly — again.

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