During tonight’s game where the Celtics were dominating the Raptors, a noteworthy incident occurred in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Despite holding a commanding 27-point lead with just 3 minutes and 39 seconds remaining, Coach Mazzulla made the bold decision to challenge a referee’s call.
Darko wasn’t too thrilled with the Celtics using their challenge with 3:39 remaining. 🤨 pic.twitter.com/vyDgfRNFKu
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 12, 2023
This contentious play featured Oshae Brissett of the Celtics and Thaddeus Young of the Raptors.
It seemed that Young had deflected the ball off Brissett, leading the referee to award possession to Toronto.
However, the Celtics’ reserve players implored Coach Mazzulla to contest the call, and he indeed accepted their request.
The Raptors, particularly Dennis Schroder, were not pleased with this move.
Schroder, a former Celtics guard, expressed his displeasure after the game, arguing that challenging a call with such a substantial lead late in the game was inappropriate.
“Up 30 you’re not supposed to challenge nothing,” Dennis said, per The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn. “You won, it’s three minutes left. You shouldn’t disrespect us like that.”
Nevertheless, the Celtics emerged victorious in the challenge, gaining possession.
In a postgame discussion, Mazzulla explained his thought process, stating, “I don’t know if it was disrespectful or cheap to challenge in that situation,” Mazzulla said. “I don’t really agree or disagree. I think at the end of the day, my responsibility is to my players first, and having respect for the game. We’ve been in that situation before where we don’t shoot the last shot, we let the clock go out. We do that all the time.”
This incident isn’t the first time Mazzulla has emphasized coaching the Celtics’ reserve players during blowout games.
The Celtics have already dominated multiple teams in nine games, providing bench players with the chance to experience NBA minutes, even in garbage time.
Mazzulla clarified that he doesn’t ease up, even when the Celtics have a substantial lead, as he believes he has a duty to develop the skills of the reserve players.
On the opposing side, Raptors’ Coach Darko Rajakovic chose to refrain from commenting on the matter, simply stating, “No comment,” as reported by Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
Additionally, Jakob Poeltl, of the Raptors weighed in on the issue.
“I wouldn’t do it, but I don’t care.” — Jakob Poeltl with final word on Mazzulla’s silly coach’s challenge up 27 with 3:35 to play. pic.twitter.com/KTjRewcM4N
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) November 12, 2023