Joe Mazzulla Acknowledges Deficiency That Continuously Haunts Celtics

The Celtics committed 18 turnovers on Monday night

The Boston Celtics have been the most dominant team in the Eastern Conference thus far, but not without a few costly blemishes.

After getting outshined by the Pacers — a team that Boston defeated by a nearly record-setting 51-point margin on Nov. 1 — in Indiana, the Celtics suffered early NBA In-Season Tournament elimination. Granted, it’s a meaningless tournament, but in the grand scheme of things, Boston still got exposed for one defect that never fails to be costly: Turnovers.

“It’s something that you really, really, have to commit to consistently and it’s a matter of, like, what’s the DNA of our defensive identity versus what we can realistically be really good at over the long period of time,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters at Wednesday’s practice, per CLNS Media video. “It’s something that we’re still working to do with some of our defensive adjustments. I still feel, obviously, you can still get better at the little things.”

Boston committed 18 turnovers to Indiana’s six, building an ongoing self-disadvantage that put the Celtics in a bad spot. There wasn’t any response of urgency, especially in the team’s biggest kryptonite: The third quarter. Turning the ball over three times in the frame, the Celtics shot just 8-of-20 and scored 23 points — still proving to be the NBA’s weakest team in the league in terms of third-quarter scoring.

That’s a snowball effect, rolling into a disastrous result that can arise on any given night, although Mazzulla pointed out there isn’t a concrete solution.

“I look at that and I say, ‘What’s the more DNA of our team? What can we realistically get better at and coach?’” Mazzulla added. “Cause you can’t even control forcing turnovers. You almost have to sell out to that, so to speak, or have certain type of guys. For us, we can get better at our decision making, our offensive execution which keeps our turnovers down.”

Within their last five games played, the Celtics have committed 16.4 turnovers a night, ranking fourth in the NBA through that stretch and first among teams in the East.

Perhaps decision-making is the start?

The Celtics, for several points throughout the night in Indiana, leaned toward finding interior offensive scoring production which early on this season, put them at their peak. But, as cliché as it’s become, firing off 41 3-pointers and connecting on just 12 (29.3%) while getting a combined six points from Luke Kornet, Payton Pritchard and Dalano Banton, also didn’t help.

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