The closing time the Celtics took to the parquet for an NBA recreation that counted was Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals on June 16. They watched as the Golden State Warriors received a championship on their hallowed hardwood and celebrated of their construction. On this night time, 3,095 miles to the west, the Warriors gained their championship rings. Still stung through that defeat, the Celtics rang the bell of a fellow contender, the 76ers. Message despatched.
The tone was set through Tatum and Brown, who blended to shoot 27 of 44 from the box, and become the first pair of teammates to each and every rating 35-plus issues in a season opener since Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West did it for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969.
“I think what’s understood and doesn’t have to be explained in a sense is we both are extremely competitive,” mentioned Brown. “We’re both trying to make our franchise better, make our teammates better, and chasing a championship.
“So, we both had bad summers after losing to the Warriors on our home floor and had to answer for it all summer long. I can speak for him, and I can speak for myself, it was tough. So, going into this season we kept all of that in mind.”
No. 7′s eloquent pregame cope with on the existence and occasions of No. 6 was one in all the highlights of the night time and a prelude to the Celtics perspective. They performed with Russell-esque ferocity, defiance, and backbone, evidenced partially through Tatum’s team-high 12 forums.
This was a high-level basketball contest in opposition to previous pal Doc Rivers’s team. The 76ers are one in all the Celtics’ leader competition in the East. They have a professional MVP-caliber centerpiece in Joel Embiid, a rejuvenated James Harden, and a budding famous person in Tyrese Maxey.
The recreation was tied at 63 at the part prior to the Celtics put the pedal to the parquet and pulled away in the 3rd quarter, opening up a 13-point lead. Playing with out injured heart Robert Williams for the time being (get used to that sentence), the Celtics shook off foul hassle, and used their velocity to outscore the Sixers, 24-2, in fast-break issues.
The other message delivered by the Celtics was that no outside distraction or coaching change is going to push them off course. The Ime Udoka imbroglio was sudden, sad, and jolting for the franchise. Just like that, a coach who guided them to the Finals was exiled under nebulous circumstances.
For the third straight season, the Green sported a different coach on opening night.
This time it was 34-year-old Rhode Island native Joe Mazzulla, tapped by the Celtics to step into the breach as interim coach following the year-long suspension of Udoka for an improper relationship with a team employee.
The NBA’s youngest head coach, Mazzulla didn’t look out of place. He earned a celebratory water bath and the game ball in the locker room.
But Rick Pitino could’ve been coaching the Celtics on this night, and it wouldn’t have made a difference. That’s how dedicated and dialed-in the Celtics look.
Not always self-starters over the last few seasons, the Celtics are intrinsically self-motivated this season. Mazzulla doesn’t have to do much in the way of motivational tactics. The Finals loss fuels that fire for him.
“Everybody here was super-locked in for this game,” said Grant Williams, who came off the bench to score 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting.
Williams and new No. 3 offensive option Malcolm Brogdon, who scored 10 points in his first 10 minutes and finished with 16 points and 4 assists, helped the Celtics bench outscore Philly, 34-11.
One area Mazzulla is going to seek improvement is on-court comportment. The Celtics were in midseason form when it came to caterwauling and complaining about the officiating. They also picked up a pair of technical fouls, including one by Tatum, who got ejected from the final preseason game.
Tatum’s tech came with some redemption when the phantom foul call Embiid earned was overturned upon video review.
Boston’s other technical came when Marcus Smart (who else?) got into a dustup with Embiid while trying to pry a rebound loose from the big man and grabbed Embiid’s leg after the two became entangled. The Celtics believed Embiid tried to hurt Smart by jerking his locked arm, and Brown jumped to his fellow Sports Illustrated cover model’s defense.
If Mazzulla can succeed where both Brad Stevens and Udoka couldn’t in getting the Celtics to stop fixating on the officiating and getting goaded by opponents he should win coach of the year. He should also get a Nobel Prize.
Good luck there, Mr. Mazzulla. Enjoy win No. 1.
“We’re happy for him. That was his first win as a head coach. In the light of Bill Russell, here on our home floor, it was special,” said Brown.
The Celtics hope that opening night was the start of something special – of a redemption tour de force.
They’re decided to be a particular team and make this a particular season.
Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.