Here’s what Joe Mazzulla said about how he approaches in-season tournament games


“Whether it’s preseason, regular season, in-season, postseason, to me, it’s all the same,” Mazzulla said before Friday’s game.

To Joe Mazzulla, the in-season tournament is important but no more so than any other game. John Raoux/AP Photo

ORLANDO, Fla. — The stage was set for an intense game of basketball. The Celtics spent their Friday afternoon in Orlando, playing the Magic in an in-season tournament game that both teams desperately wanted to win.

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Fans of both teams packed Amway Center to watch these two hungry teams battle on the Magic’s gray and navy in-season tournament-themed court. The deafening sound of cheers seemed to fill the entire stadium whenever any play happened during the Celtics’ 111-95 loss to the Magic.

It was a game with very high stakes, but to Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla, Friday’s in-season tournament game was no different than any other.

“Whether it’s preseason, regular season, in-season, postseason, to me, it’s all the same,” Mazzulla said before Friday’s game.

This isn’t the first time Mazzulla has said that he approaches the tournament like any other game. He referred to his first ever tournament game — a 121-107 win against the Brooklyn Nets — as “one of 82” during that pregame press conference.

But Mazzulla still admires the concept of the in-season tournament and how it’s implemented in other sports. He just doesn’t want his team to view these games as any bigger than non-tournament games.

“I understand where it can get to, I have respect for other leagues and other sports that have in-season tournaments and to what they’ve grown to.” Mazzulla said. “At the end of the day, I’d rather create an environment where winning every game is most important.”

The Celtics’ defeat at the hands of the Magic on Friday marks their first in-season tournament loss in franchise history, but they’re not out of it yet. They are currently second in Group C behind Orlando, and they could take the top spot from them if they defeat the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday by more than 22 points. If that happens and if Brooklyn loses against Toronto that night, they could advance to the second round.

Tuesday’s game will certainly be a big one for the Celtics’ in-season tournament hopes, and Mazzulla plans on approaching it just like he would do so for any other game: with passion, intensity and efficient basketball.

“It all comes down to the same thing: the hardest-playing team usually wins,” Mazzulla said. “And the team that executes usually wins, and that’s our goal.”