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Celtics must regain 'mentality' to survive Heat, coach says

Head coach Joe Mazzulla (R) and the Boston Celtics will play the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday in Miami. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
Head coach Joe Mazzulla (R) and the Boston Celtics will play the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday in Miami. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, May 22 (UPI) -- Coach Joe Mazzulla said the Boston Celtics have lost the team "mentality" that made them one of the NBA's best, and need to get it back if they hope to avoid a Miami Heat sweep in the Eastern Conference finals.

Mazzulla discussed the Celtics' performance after a 26-point loss to the Heat on Sunday at the Kaseya Center in Miami. The Heat became the first No. 8 seed to win a playoff game by at least 25 points with the 128-102 triumph.

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"We're a great team," Mazzulla told reporters. "Right now, they have a mentality and we don't, and we have to get that back."

The Celtics made 39.8% of their shots and just 11 of 42 3-point attempts in Sunday's loss. They trail 3-0 in the best-of-seven game series. Game 4 will be Tuesday in Miami.

The Heat, who scored the fewest points per game (109.5) in the NBA this season, have averaged 120.7 points per game so far in the conference finals. Miami made 47% of their 3-pointers, compared to a 29% clip for the Celtics, through three games.

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"I think some of that defensive identity has been lost, and we have to get that back, and that's where part of that is on me to make sure we get that back," Mazzulla said.

Celtics stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined to make just 12 of their 35 shot attempts and scored 26 points in Game 3. The All-Star duo has looked lost at key moments throughout the series.

"I don't even know where to start," Brown said. "It was an obvious letdown. I feel like we let our fan base and organization down. We let ourselves down, and it was collective. We could point fingers, but in reality, it was just embarrassing."

Brown also said he hopes the Celtics aren't "throwing in the towel" and believes they can win Game 4.

"That's not what I'm about," Brown said. "I'm going to fight until the end. I'll try to get our guys ready for the next game, and [hope] we come out and we put our best foot forward."

Mazzulla took responsibility for the Celtics "disconnect."

"That's where I have to be better and figure out what this team needs to make sure that they're connected, they're physical and they're together by the time we step on the floor," Mazzulla said.

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The Celtics and Heat will tip off Game 4 at 8:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday in Miami. Game 5, if necessary, will be Thursday in Boston.

"Obviously, we're in a tough position, but we've just got to have some pride, bounce back, and just be better come Tuesday," Tatum said.

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