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Steve Hewitt | Celtics Insider; The Boston Herald

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May 15, 2023 6:08 am

Steve Hewitt | Celtics Insider; The Boston Herald

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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May 15, 2023 6:08 am

Boston Herald Celtics insider Steve Hewitt joins the show to talk Jayson Tatum, Joe Mazzulla's first season, and a Game 7 win over the 76ers.


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Find out more at slash CY. That's S-E-E-W-H-Y. We are pleased to welcome Steve Hewitt of the Boston Herald. Long day for him, but a lot to write about. Never a dull moment when it comes to the NBA, and certainly not the Celtics in the roller coaster ride of the last year.

But let's start with the obvious, Steve. What the heck happened in Boston on Sunday afternoon? Jason Tatum happened.

That's kind of what happened, right? It was epic. It was historic. It was dominant.

He was just unstoppable. You could kind of see it in the early going, like coming off that game seven, the game six game in Philly. He obviously hit those four threes at the end to sort of will them to win.

And I think that momentum carried over to today for sure. He seemed relaxed. He spoke about this today after the game, just how he was a little too locked in in game six. And that's what sort of led to his shooting woes to start that game. And he came in today just super relaxed.

He just kind of came back to his roots. He was having fun. And he was aggressive starting the game. He was attacking the basket. He was getting to the free throw line. And I think that momentum just kept building. And then sort of he unleashed that third quarter.

He started getting into that rhythm. The defense was spectacular. They held the Sixers at ten points in the third quarter, which is just insane.

And Missoula talks about it all the time. The defense sort of translates into offense when they get into transition and get into easy baskets. And Tatum was sort of the beneficiary today.

And he just got into one of those zones. And they blew the doors off of the Sixers. It was certainly a sight to see.

You know, it's interesting, Steve. I was thinking back to the end of their last game in Boston, which would have been game five, when Tatum was talking about hearing boos from the crowd at the Garden. And the complete and total 180 that's done in the few days between the end of that game and the end of game seven in the series. And he's hearing MVP chants, cheers throughout the game. Like, I've never heard the Garden like that in my time covering the Celtics the last decade or so.

I've been covering the scene. I've been to a lot of Celtics playoff games in the last five, ten years. And I've never quite heard it like today. But you're a total 180 from Tuesday when the energy was just sort of flat to start the game. And the Celtics never really gave the fans really a reason to get into the game. Their efforts sort of warranted that pooing.

And then just right from the tip off, the energy was just through the roof. And Tatum gave them every reason to get those MVP chants in those cheers all afternoon. Most points ever in an NBA playoff game seven, which is phenomenal. About the crowd, how much do you think that has to do with Jalen Brown exhorting the crowd or calling out the crowd after game number six?

He specifically said he was going to call out Celtics fans. Yeah, I think that did have a factor. Even before the game started, I'd get into my seat maybe like 20, 25 minutes before tip off usually.

And I could just kind of tell walking into my seat like, oh, this kind of feels different today. And they were showing players on the Jumbotron. And they showed Tatum.

And the place would erupt. And this was like 20 minutes for the intros and the national anthem and everything. People were just so locked in and sort of juiced up for the game. And they're doing a countdown to tip off and actually show the video of Jalen from after game six saying the energy in the garden has been okay with us.

And we need the garden to be rocking tonight. And that turned the dial up too with the crowd when they saw that. And it was warranted.

What Jalen said was totally right. The energy has been low to start the playoffs. Game five, like I said, I get to my seat before tip off. And there were a lot of empty seats in there. Yeah, it was sort of a late arriving crowd.

It was Tuesday. And the energy just kind of wasn't there. The vibes were just a little off.

I can't really put my finger on sort of why. It's just kind of something that happens, I guess, in the course of these playoff runs. And I don't know if the fans sort of get bored or just kind of take these games for granted. But when you have a game seven in Boston and obviously Jalen called them out, that definitely helps. But a game seven in Boston on a Sunday afternoon, you're going to get Boston's best. And you definitely got that today.

And happy Mother's Day for the moms as well. It was kind of cool to see Jason's mom on screen, a bunch at least watching on TV. We're spending a few minutes with Steve Hewitt, who covers the Celtics for the Boston Herald with us here after hours on CBS Sports Radio.

I would love to know actually the reaction of Jason's teammates to the performance he put on. It was, as you point out, the complete opposite of the first three quarters from game number six. My favorite quote postgame was Marcus Smart. That's what it's like to see Tatum going in the zone that he was in. It's like a movie.

You just kind of want to sit and even if you're on the court, you want to sort of sit to the side and get some popcorn out. That's what he said. And that's kind of just what it was. He just took over Jalen. Jalen Brown was like, just get up out of the way when Tatum's in that sort of zone.

You just get out of the way and let him take over, which is what he did, obviously. And if you really leaned on his teammates, especially through those game deck struggles, they were always in his ear. Marcus always telling him, you're one of the best players in the world. Even Missoula is telling him, I love you.

It's like his thing with all the players when he gets asked, what do you say to Tatum when he's going through these struggles? I love you. And sort of this empowerment and tough love that they give each other and everything. You just saw the fruits of their labor today. There wasn't going to be anything stopping him today.

And they loved every second of it. Al Warford was talking about how he's super proud. He's been with him for four or five years now, just kind of seeing how Tatum's developed over the course of his career and how he's matured and is ready for these kinds of moments.

He proved all of them right today, for sure. Tatum, one of just three Celtics in double figures, so a little bit different because he dominated the offense. However, it wasn't just offense, defense as well. The Sixers don't even hit 30 points in any of the quarters on Sunday and only 10 points. I'm not sure I've ever seen an NBA team in the playoffs manage just 10 points in a single quarter. It was so lopsided. So what did they have to say about the defensive effort, which maybe has been spotty to start these playoffs at times?

Yeah, you talk about the 10 points. They also limited the Sixers to 13 in the fourth quarter of game six. And Tatum outscored the Sixers by himself in both those quarters, both the fourth of game six and the third of today in game seven.

It's crazy. The Sixers have had one of the best offices in the NBA this year. I think they were ranked third in the Celtics, had three of their best defensive performances this series. They held them to under 90 points three times.

Two of them in back-to-back games here at six and seven. I think the big change has been what Missoula did before game six when they were down 3-2. It's sort of a bold move by changing the lineup up, but it kind of worked. He put Robert Williams in the starting lineup for Derek White, sort of remaking the NBA Finals. He put the lineup that made the NBA Finals last year and started pretty much every game together and was one of the best defenses in the league, the best defense in the league, that played a huge factor. You saw, indeed, today, just 15 points, 5 of 18 shooting. He was all out of sorts. He had a few shot clock violations where he's shooting these long range series.

It's like, what is going on here? But the Celtics just really, I think that switched back to Rob, really allowed them to sort of become more connected and more comfortable defensively. Al Horford and Marcus Smart talking after game six about just how happy they were to see Robert back in the starting lineup, how proud they were to see that because that sort of gives them the energy they need on defense. If he sort of acts as sort of the security blanket on that back line, where Al Horford can be a little more aggressive with Joe Longbeat and put a little more ball pressure on him, knowing that he has Rob behind him, Marcus Smart can sort of gamble a little more and be more aggressive on the guards on the perimeter. And I think that had a huge effect on James Harden, too, and their shooters weren't hitting shots, and it just sort of threw the Sixers offense out of sorts, and they were throwing all these coverages that indeed. And it was just sort of the perfect storm. So credit that adjustment to start hitting Robert Williams again, which looks like it will probably continue to stay throughout their remaining playoff run.

The defense definitely won that game in game six, and it was a huge part of why they won today, for sure. Steve Hewitt is with us from the Boston Herald following this game seven in Boston, which turned out to be a coronation in the final quarter and a half. It's after hours with Amy Lawrence, CBS Sports Radio, thinking back to Emay Udoka and the changes that he made on defense that really spurred the Celtics run to the East Finals and then the NBA Finals a year ago. When Joe took over and over the course of the season, how have you seen him grow into this role? Why is he the right guy for the job?

It's an interesting dynamic, obviously. First-year head coach, taking on a team of championship expectations, guys that have been to the Finals already, and he was sort of just a second-row assistant. He wasn't even one of the top assistants for Udoka. Kind of thrown into the fire, and he's taken a lot of heat the last few weeks.

Obviously, the Marcus Smart comment the other day got some headlines when he said, he's been getting killed, and rightfully so, Marcus Smart said, which sort of raised eyebrows all along. I kind of go back to day one when Mazul was getting introduced, and he spoke about how he was going to fit in and bring these guys along. He always talked about the collaboration effort between the coaching staff and the players, where he's sort of just empowering the players, not to make the final decisions, but to have that back-and-forth dialogue, that open communication and trust together to make decisions. Which I think they haven't said bluntly, but the players didn't go to Mazul to ask him for that change for Ra, but there was sort of that open dialogue in the back-and-forth to sort of make those kinds of decisions. Mazul is going into his first year, and he doesn't know everything.

You don't know what you don't know in your first year, right? And these guys, he's sort of been humble enough, I guess, is the word, to sort of take a step back and let guys like Marcus Smart or Al Horford, who's actually older than Mazul. He's like two or three years older than him, because they've been in the league for 10, 15 years, and they've seen it all. They've been to the finals together.

They know what it takes to get there. So if you're Mazul, why not sort of take that step back, know that you don't know everything, and not let players make decisions for you, but have that back-and-forth dialogue and getting through these difficult moments in the playoffs. Mazul knows he's not perfect. There's that timeout call at the end of the overtime loss in Game 4 that he sort of admitted the next day that was a mistake. You go back to the Hawks series, and that Game 5 that they blew in the final minutes, he took the blame for that, knowing that the offensive execution sort of waned on the stretch, and he blamed himself for that. He's sort of just grown over the course of the year, and the players have just kind of been there to help him.

So it's been this sort of interesting dynamic between the players and the coach that you don't see everywhere, but it sort of has worked, and they've made it to the Houston Conference Finals doing it, so you can't really argue it at this point, I guess. Now thinking back, though, over the last year of covering the Celtics, they're back where they were a year ago in the East Finals. How would you describe the year that has been for the Celtics?

A few words that you would use to describe what it's been like. Sort of expected, I guess. They came into the season as championship favorites, and they're sort of right back where they should be.

It hasn't gone exactly how you would draw it up. Obviously, you couldn't expect Yudoka to be suspended for the year like he was, and they talked about how that sort of affected the locker room. They had to sort of push through that at the beginning of the season.

They loved Yudoka. They were a little confused about why that happened, but they were public about that. And then you had the Robert Williams situation where he missed the first 29 games of the season with knee surgery. So they had to go through some sort of unexpected adversity to get back to where they are, but they're here. And the heat really aren't your typical eight-seed. They've been to the NBA Finals, and three years ago they had one of the best stars in the league, Jimmy Butler.

These guys are mentally tough. It's going to take another level of mental toughness for the Celtics to get by them. You've seen them sort of have those lapses in the first couple of rounds, whether it's dropping game five to the Hawks when they shouldn't have lost that game. Game one to the Sixers when they didn't have Embiid, and they dropped a few games in the Sixers series that they shouldn't have gotten.

It should have probably been a five or six game series at most. But the Heat are going to challenge them. Eric Spulcher is one of the best coaches in the NBA. He's proven that over the last 10, 13 years that he's been there. And that's going to be another challenge for Missoula. Can he out-coach another experienced coach who just went through doc Quinn Snyder with Atlanta with a challenge too?

So that'll be an interesting dynamic too. But at the end of the day, I think the Celtics are deeper than the Heat are. They sort of really focus on that in the offseason with the addition of Malcolm Brosnan. They have now Derek White coming off the bench.

And even if you flip-flop him and Rob, Rob is obviously a huge asset off the bench. Obviously, Jimmy has been sort of carrying the Heat through the first couple rounds, but the Celtics top-end talent is obviously much better. It's going to take some mental toughness because the Heat have been here before and they're not going to be scared of the Celtics.

Yeah, they are definitely a tough out. Three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals for Miami and the opener of that series in Boston on Wednesday evening. That's game number one. So Celtics maintaining that home court advantage. It's after hours with Amy Lawrence here on CBS Sports Radio.

Steve Hewitt of the Boston Herald covered Game 7. But before I let you go, happy to see on your Twitter, Steve, that you just completed the Boston Marathon, a personal achievement that I am in awe of. What was that experience like for you?

I don't even know how to describe that, honestly. It was super incredible. One of the most special days of my life. It actually was my fourth Boston. But this one was more special just because I was running for the Martin Richard Foundation, which for those people who don't know, Martin Richard was the eight-year-old boy who was one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings back in 2013.

But my first Boston Marathon was in 2018. I ran for their foundation and sort of continued on. I stayed involved with the foundation. This year they invited 50 or 60 of us back for a 10-year anniversary team of the Boston bombings.

It's something I couldn't say no to. I've become pretty close with their family and just in awe of their resilience of going through such an unimaginable tragedy to become sort of a positive light for the city and all the impact and change they've made for the city over the last 10 years. So it was an incredible honor to run for them again on such a special day. It was a perfect weather day too.

The stars sort of perfectly aligned with that. I haven't had great luck with the marathons in past years, so that was super special. I got to run side by side next to one of my best friends and teammates on the team for the entire 26 miles, which for people who run marathons, it's kind of hard to stick with your friends for a full 26.2. Stuff does happen during the marathon and it's hard to sort of stay with certain people at a pace for that long, but that made it extra special. I got to cross the finish line holding her hand and waving to the crowd and everything.

Special day is something I'll absolutely never forget. Congratulations. Amazing. And you can check out the photo of Steve's gigantic smile at the finish line on his Twitter, which is at Steve underscore Hewitt is the Celtics beat writer for the Boston Herald.

Covered game seven and that atmosphere that was electric at the Garden. Congratulations again. Thank you so much for a couple of minutes. We love having you on the show. Thank you, Amy. I appreciate it. Thank you so much. App or wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-15 08:24:09 / 2023-05-15 08:32:09 / 8

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