Joe Mazzulla, Celtics Hone in on Mental Preparation for ECF Opponent

Celtics players open up about what goes into Joe Mazzulla's mental preparation
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla has preached the importance of mentally preparing for an upcoming opponent all season long, and as the Celtics prepare for their third consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, he's hoping those lessons bear fruit, albeit against the New York Knicks or the Indiana Pacers.

"Anybody that knows Joe, you know he's crazy, and that's pretty much it," Holiday said with a smile at the Auerbach Center on Sunday. "Maybe controlled madness is definitely his way of preparing us, and I feel like preparing himself, and I think it's been working."

Jrue Holiday

The physical aspect of preparation, weightlifting, running through sets, and on-court scrimmaging is also a big part of what the Celtics have been up to over the weekend while awaiting the winner of Game 7 between the Pacers and Knicks. However, watching game film, whether from Boston's previous outings or recent NBA playoff games, plays a vital part in Mazzulla's process.

The Celtics haven't played since closing out their series against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 on Wednesday.

"It could be a number of things," Mazzulla said when asked about the focus that goes into watching NBA games outside of the Celtics' previous outings. "How coaches use their timeouts, how they use their challenges, play calls, coverages defensively, who uses two-for-ones, who doesn't use them; little things that can lead to winning in a close game."

Joe Mazzulla

While both the Knicks and Pacers provide their respective challenges for a shorthanded Celtics team expected to begin their best-of-7 series without starting center Kristaps Porzingis, Boston remains focused on what its players can control — which is something that's resonating with point guards Holiday, and Payton Pritchard.

"I've definitely learned a lot from him," Pritchard said when asked about Mazzulla's preparation. "Joe really studies the game, studies the mental side of things a lot. I think that's our biggest growth this season; how do we prepare mentally for the battle ahead? Staying in the moment, and not losing ourselves; that's what I've learned the most from him. And I think he's done a great job with that stuff."

Payton Pritchard

The Celtics will host Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on Tuesday.

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