It didn't seem as though things could get much worse for the Celtics after two home losses against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, but they hit a new low on Sunday night.
Miami dominated Boston from start to finish in Game 3, rolling to a 128-102 win and taking a 3-0 series lead. The Heat shot 56.8 percent from the field and 54.3 percent from 3-point range. The Celtics were down by 15 at halftime and 30 at the end of the third quarter. They pulled their starters before the final frame. Simply put, it was a disaster.
During his postgame media availability, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla took the blame for his team's performance. He also raised some eyebrows with one of his quotes about whether his voice still resonated in the locker room.
Just one issue there, though: The initial framing of his comments wasn't accurate.
Did Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla say he lost locker room?
In the aftermath of Boston's embarrassing defeat, The Athletic's Jared Weiss tweeted out an exchange that quickly went viral. Mazzulla admitted to losing the locker room, according to Weiss.
Joe Mazzulla was asked if he has lost the locker room:— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 22, 2023
"Yeah, it’s why I need to be better to figure out what this team needs."
Why has that happened?
"I’m not sure."
However, the video of Mazzulla's postgame news conference tells a different story. Here is the full exchange:
Reporter: Joe, I don't want to say you lost this team, but is there a disconnect between you and the players at this point? Is there something not quite working that might have worked in February or January? You're not telling them to lose by 28 points, but you're telling them to try. So, is there a disconnect?
Mazzulla: Yeah, that's where I have to be better to figure out what this team needs to make sure that they're connected, they're physical and they're together by the time we step on the floor.
Reporter: What do you think caused that disconnect?
Mazzulla: Um, not sure.
Reporter: "I don't wanna say you lost this team, but is there a disconnect between you and the players at this point?”— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 22, 2023
Joe Mazulla: "Yeah, there's where I have to be better to figure out what this team needs to make sure they're connected."
That's obviously not the answer Celtics fans want to hear, but Mazzulla clearly didn't say that he has lost the locker room. He was responding to a question about a potential disconnect and how to fix it.
What else did Joe Mazzulla say after Game 3?
— On what happened in Game 3: "I just didn't have them ready to play."
— On the Celtics' effort level in Game 3: "Yeah, it's on me to be better for them so that they play harder."
— On whether the Celtics' defensive identity has been lost: "Yeah, I think some of that defensive identity has been lost, and we have to get that back. And that's where part of that is on me to make sure we get that back. ... I think just the execution. We're not connected. Usually at our best, we're connected. We're together. We're physical on the defensive end. And we don't have that right now."
— On the Celtics' stars taking responsibility for the loss: "No, it starts with me. I have to be better. ... I think they're doing everything they can to be in position. We just have to be better."
— On how the Celtics can get back on track over the next two days: "Yeah, the most important thing is how can we get our defensive identity, how can we get just a clear understanding of what it looks like on the offensive end and just keep it as simple as we can so that we're connected and we're physical. We play with the right mindset, and we play together."