Joe Mazzulla Addresses James Harden After Brutal Celtics Loss

James Harden, Boston Celtics

Getty James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates after hitting a three point shot during the second half against the Boston Celtics.

The Boston Celtics may have homecourt advantage, but it was the Philadelphia 76ers who managed to scrape out a Game 1 victory in Monday’s Eastern Conference Semifinals opener.

Having no Joel Embiid proved to be no problem for the Sixers, as co-star James Harden turned back the clock and put forth a vintage showing that, ultimately, paved the way to victory.

Following the contest, NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin discussed the perennial All-Star’s monstrous performance with Joe Mazzulla, and asked the head coach what, in particular, his team can do to prepare themselves moving forward. In response, Mazzulla was rather straightforward with his game plan.

“Yea, we gotta make him uncomfortable. We got some really good possessions. We have to make him uncomfortable [and] guard him as a team,” Joe Mazzulla said on preparing for James Harden.

In 39 minutes of action, James Harden scored a whopping 45 points to go along with 6 assists, 2 steals, and a rebound while shooting 56.7% from the field and 50.0% from deep. Behind his efforts, the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves gearing up for Game 2 in possession of a 1-0 series lead over the Celtics.

Al Horford Talks Defending James Harden After Celtics Loss

James Harden’s fantastical performance Monday night found itself having a fairytale-type of ending, as he managed to hit the fate-deciding trey with time winding down in the final seconds of regulation.

The former MVP was guarded heavily by Celtics veteran Al Horford off of a switch at around the 16-second mark in the final period. With the clock ticking down, Harden pulled off one of his famous stepback jumpers which, ultimately, cashed in and gave the Sixers a 117-115 lead with 8.9 remaining on the night.

Boston would go scoreless from then on out.

Following the outing, Horford addressed his defensive approach on that crucial possession, and admitted that, in the end, he should have been more prepared from a timing standpoint on his contest.

“I tried to guard him as best as I could. He probably surprised me with how quick he shot the ball, I figured he would try to spend a little more time before going but I felt like I was right there…For me, it’s a good learning experience there, knowing how I’d handle it next time if I’m in the that position,” Al Horford said on guarding James Harden late in Game 1.

Horford would also call out James Harden for his shooting form, saying that “you can’t really” contest his shots “because he always kicks his legs.”

Despite his failed contest on Philadelphia’s star guard, the big man wound up having quite a sound two-way performance for the Celtics. In 30 minutes played, Al Horford finished the night off with an impressive stat line of 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks while shooting 62.5% from the field.

Joe Mazzulla Takes Blame for Celtics Turnovers

While James Harden’s scoring escapades certainly did not bode well for Boston’s chances of pulling out a win in Monday’s Game 1, he was not the sole reason for the club’s ultimate demise.

There were many self-inflicted wounds sustained throughout the contest and turnovers proved to be a major talking point during Joe Mazzulla’s postgame press conference.

When asked why the Celtics struggled so severely to hold onto the ball, first and foremost, the first-year head coach suggested that his decision-making played a major role in their lackluster offensive possessions.

“I got to be better at play calling and getting us into a spacing quicker so it’s from that,” Joe Mazzulla said.

Mazzulla would continue to note that while he takes blame for the turnover woes of the Celtics, he believes that the players passing up “good looks” to try and create a non-existent great one also played a part.

On the night, Boston coughed up the ball on 16 separate occasions while the Sixers only committed six of their own turnovers.

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