Jayson Tatum Shares Joe Mazzulla's Message to Celtics Entering Game 5 of NBA Finals

May 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) talks with head coach Joe Mazzulla during the first quarter of game five against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
May 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) talks with head coach Joe Mazzulla during the first quarter of game five against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports / Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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The Celtics enter Game 5 of the NBA Finals with a chance to turn Monday night's matchup at TD Garden into a championship coronation. That same opportunity was in front of them on Friday night in Dallas, but after not losing a closeout contest or road tilt this postseason, the Mavericks extended the series with a dominant display in a 122-84 win.

The lopsided nature of that defeat sparked questions about Boston's handling of its chance to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Some interpreted that as the Celtics being too cavalier about their chance to become NBA champions, perhaps thinking the Mavericks would let go of the rope without much resistance.

However, at media day on Sunday, Jayson Tatum clarified, "We wanted to go for the kill, essentially, and we wanted to win so bad that maybe we got away from what makes us special and what makes us the Boston Celtics.

"Today, (Joe Mazzulla) just reminded each guy why he's important to this team, and why we all need each other, and what a person brings to the table. I think that was really important for us to go over today."

That mentality of wanting to win so badly that it becomes counterproductive has cost Boston before. The prime example is now what unfolded at American Airlines Center on Friday night.

But a year ago, after Jayson Tatum injured his ankle on the first play of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, compromising his performance in trying to shoulder even more responsibility and lead the Celtics back to the championship round, Jaylen Brown committed a career-high eight turnovers.

Mazzulla, having his finger on the pulse of the team, understands that for them to be at their best, that's not the mindset they should adopt, instead embracing how special it is to play on the NBA Finals stage.

"I think we maybe put too much pressure on ourselves at that moment to be perfect or think it was going to go how we wanted it to go," said Tatum, reflecting on Boston's Game 4 loss.

"Joe did a great job today of reminding us that it's okay to smile during wars. It's okay to have fun during high-pressure moments. That's what makes our team unique and special.

"We would love to win tomorrow -- more than anything. But if it doesn't happen, it's not the end of the world. We have more opportunities. So, just setting that table of don't surrender to that idea that we have to win tomorrow. We would love to, absolutely. But Game 5 is the biggest game of the season because it's the next game on the schedule.

"So, going with that mindset, and just have fun. That's really what we talked about today. Get back to having fun and being a team and how special we are and the team that got us here."

The Celtics aren't ignoring the possibility that they might lose on Monday and that there could be a Game 6 in Dallas. But to avoid that scenario and to reach the NBA summit, they have to stick with the outlook that has led them to the verge of Banner 18. Focusing more on the joy in this pressure-filled moment as they try to finish off the Mavericks and complete their championship journey is the key to reaching the top of the mountain.

Further Reading

Celtics Discuss Keeping Mavs from Building on Dominant Game 4

Dependable Xavier Tillman Discusses Learning to 'Be a Star in Your Own Role'

Celtics Detail Keys to Perhaps Their Best Quarter This Postseason

Celtics Weather Late Storm to Move Within One Win of Banner 18

Sports Doctor Details Challenges, Risks of Kristaps Porzingis Playing in NBA Finals

Jrue Holiday's 'Championship DNA' Rubbing Off on Celtics

Stifling Defense Moves Celtics Halfway to Banner 18

Jayson Tatum's Joy Outweighing Pressure of NBA Finals Return

Inside the Moment that Propelled Celtics to NBA Finals Game 1 Win

Celtics Set the Tone for the NBA Finals with Game 1 Haymaker


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Bobby Krivitsky

BOBBY KRIVITSKY

Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.