Al Horford defense Luka Doncic at TD Garden

Pregame Post Ups: Mazzulla Preps for Doncic for First Time

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

There are some nights which coaches will always remember, such as their first win or their first loss. Something tells us that Joe Mazzulla will always remember tonight as the first time he prepared to face off against Luka Doncic as a head coach.

Doncic, the league’s leading scorer with an average of 33.5 points per game, marches into TD Garden having scored 31 or more points during 13 of his 15 appearances this season. He’s also averaging 9.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game.

Preparing for a player of Doncic’s caliber is a rare yet challenging task, and one which Mazzulla is embracing. He understands that Doncic is going to get his, but also wants the Celtics to concentrate on the details in their attempt to corral him tonight at TD Garden.

“Know what you’re willing to live with, and know what you need to take away,” Mazzulla said during his pregame press conference. “Stick with that as long as we can, and then be ready to adjust based on how the game is going.”

Mazzulla continued, adding, “We know he can get it in a lot of different ways. So just have to know that, and then know what we wanna take away.”

Surely there are a few things the C’s will attempt to take away from Doncic. The question is: Can they be successful in that pursuit?

That’s not a minimal question, either, seeing as Boston enters tonight’s game ranked just 16th in the NBA in defensive rating. The Celtics have had great defensive games, and they’ve also had others that were forgettable, such as Monday’s in Chicago. That being said, Mazzulla does like the direction in which the defense is heading.

“It’s coming along,” he said. “I think it’s definitely gotten a lot better.

“Overall, I like our effort. I like our intentionality to the details, for the most part, and we’ve just gotta continue to grow on that.”

Effort and intentionality will be key against arguably the game’s most impactful offensive player. Doncic is the most prolific scorer in the league, one whom the Celtics may need to contain tonight in order to get back into the win column.