Celtics Aim to Trick Themselves Into Being the Hungrier Team Against Mavs in Game 3

Jun 6, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla talks during a timeout in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks during game one of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 6, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla talks during a timeout in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks during game one of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
In this story:

Wednesday's Game 3 will be a tremendous opportunity for the Boston Celtics to take full control of the NBA Finals. They enter the matchup with the Dallas Mavericks having won each of the first two games in fairly convincing fashion.

Boston has taken on the mindset of its head coach, Joe Mazzulla, all season long. The Rhode Island native has consistently steered his players towards taking nothing for granted and preparing for each game the same way, no matter the opponent or circumstances.

Mazzulla was prompted on what advice his late father, Dan, would give him in this situation, being just two wins away from bringing the Celtics their 18th NBA Championship.


"The closer you are to winning, the easier it is to become distracted by things that you can't control, things that don't matter," he expalined. "Here are the things that matter, and you got to fight like hell to accomplish those things with simplicity, with discipline and mental toughness."

His players repeatedly pointed to the mental aspect that goes into preparing for their third meeting with the Mavs, during Tuesday's availability.

Veteran big man Al Horford hopes to see his squad bring it on the defensive end in particular.

"For us, it’s just continuing to do what we’ve been doing all year. Being consistent on the defensive end," said Horford. "On offense, playing the way we want to play. Just being consistent. Our team has been this all season. Now we have a great opportunity in Game 3 to come in here. We understand it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a tough game."


The Celtics were in a similar situation last round, when they rolled into Game 3 up 2-0 over the Indiana Pacers. What followed was one of the most impressive wins of the season. Their defense fueled an 18-point comeback over the Pacers, where Jrue Holiday secured victory with a clutch steal as seconds ticked off the clock.

He hopes to channel that same hunger on Wednesday.

"Trying to be the hungrier team," Holiday said of the team's approach heading into Game 3. "We're going to go out there and try and execute a game plan, and I think most of us just try and do it together as a team."

Jaylen Brown offered a similar perspective, explaining that he aims to trick his mind into playing as if Boston is the more desperate team.

"For me, it's different for every individual, but it's almost like you got to trick your mind almost in a sense," Brown told reporters. "You almost got to play like you're down 0-2 rather than up. That's hard to do. You got to go into that mind frame, that focus...The mind is a powerful thing. It's hard to grasp some of those things as you are intaking them. If you can kind of focus your mind on what you want it to focus on, you'd be surprised what you can do."

Jayson Tatum offered a more unique point of view. As someone who's been heavily scrutinized on a national scale, he's aiming to remain focused on the task at hand.

"It's a learned experience. Over time you learn how to deal with all the extra noise and attention, whether it's positive or not so positive. At the same time, just keeping the main thing the main thing and focusing on trying to win the next game. That's what's most important at this time."

So far in these playoffs, Tatum has averaged 30.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 6.7 assists in Game 3s. He was a huge part of the aforementioned comeback in Indiana, where he may have played the best game of his career, posting 36 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Derrick White, who has been as steady as ever throughout the entire run, is ready for a battle and feels his team can counter whatever Dallas throws their way.

"Yeah, every game you can learn from and just understand that it's going to get tougher each and every game. The things we did in Boston might not work this game, so just being able to make the adjustments that we need to and just trust that whatever adjustments they make, we've got an answer for it."

The Celtics have yet to drop a Game 3 this year. They've displayed all of the qualities that the players highlighted on Tuesday, and have taken care of business in the big moments.


Published
Sam LaFrance

SAM LAFRANCE