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The 'Moose' is Loose: Muscala Drains Four 3s in Celtics Debut

BOSTON – If Mike Muscala was feeling any nerves heading into his Celtics debut Friday night, he sure didn’t show it.

The “Moose” looked as loose as could be in his first appearance with Boston after being acquired ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, sinking four 3-pointers in a 127-116 win over the Charlotte Hornets at TD Garden.

Muscala was given a 40-second heads-up from Celtics assistant coach and fellow Bucknell alum D.J. MacLeay before checking in at the 3:30 mark of the first quarter.

“I knew there was a possibility I might play,” said Muscala, who was dealt from Oklahoma City to Boston in exchange for Justin Jackson and two future second-round draft picks. “I was just ready. Be in the moment.”

The 6-foot-11 sharpshooting center was ready to fire right away, rising up from the right corner on just his third offensive possession and drilling his very first 3-point attempt.

Tatum, who assisted on the triple, was impressed by the way Muscala came in cold off the bench into a brand-new situation.

“Man, that’s big time,” said Tatum, who logged a game-high 41 points. “To come to a new team, never practiced with us, to come in and knock down your first shot... just as a basketball player, I know how good that felt.”

Muscala kept that feeling alive throughout the game, as he hoisted up eight 3-point attempts, making half of them. He finished with 12 points, two assists, one rebound, and one block in just over 15 minutes of action.

“That's what I gotta bring offensively,” Muscala, the most efficient 3-point marksman among NBA bigs over the past 10 seasons, said of his shooting approach. “I maybe passed up one or two there. But there are great passers on this team all around the board, so it's just a blessing to be out there and just move the ball.”

Muscala, who landed in Boston late Thursday night, says he got a crash course of the Celtics’ system from interim head coach Joe Mazzulla Friday morning. He did some homework, watching Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia and the first half of Monday’s game against Detroit, before heading to his new home arena.

The instructions he got from Mazzulla were simple: “Play hard, pay attention and you’ll figure it out.”

Mazzulla added, “We have enough good guys around here that communicate well, that want to win and be successful. So on the offensive end, he fit right in as far as our spacing and just the way we were attacking offensively. I thought defensively, he played with energy and our guys did a good job of communicating with him the different systems and schemes that we had throughout the game. So he’s all-in and we’re just looking for him to continue to execute.”

Celtics President of Basketball Brad Stevens is confident in Muscala’s ability to execute because of his versatility and floor-spacing ability. And above all, Stevens knows that the 10-year vet just wants to be a part of and contribute to a winning environment.

“When people described Mike, that I knew well, whether in coaching or playing with him or whatever, they always talked about the way he approached his work, the way he was as a teammate, the way he competed to win,” Stevens said before tip-off. “That was the most important thing. Anybody that played with him would tell you they love playing with him, which, like, an alarm goes off in your head; that’s a person you want to have around.”

Muscala’s teammates are already feeling that way just one game into his Celtics career.

“We just can see how important he can be for us,” said Tatum. “A big body, long arms, obviously can stretch the floor, so glad we got him.”

The feeling is mutual. Muscala embraced his first experience as a Celtic playing inside TD Garden, where the fans were chanting “MOOOOOOOSE” as he knocked down one 3-pointer after another.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity here to be part of a great team and here in Boston, I’ve heard so many good things about the city,” he said. “So I’m excited to get to know the city more, get to know the fans, and just go play some ball.”