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Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla’s inexperience showed during the NBA playoffs. Did Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers take advantage? What do you think?

A couple of months before the start of the NBA season, Joe Mazzulla was ticketed to be the second assistant on the bench for the Boston Celtics. At 34 years old, that was a pretty good gig.

And then fate intervened. Top assistant WIll Hardy was hired as the new coach of the Utah Jazz. Then, right before the start of training camp, head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for a violation of team policy involving a consensual relationship with an employee.

General manager Brad Stevens made what might be a fateful decision. Instead of going back to the bench and coaching the team, he elevated Mazzulla to interim head coach (the interim tag was removed in January).

Mazzulla’s only head coaching experience was two years at Division II Fairmont State. He had been an assistant with the Celtics for three years so he understood the team, but handing a guy with little head coaching experience a team that made the NBA finals the year before, seemed a gamble.

It was a gamble Boston lost, losing to the No. 8 seeded Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics lost three of four games at home in the series against a Heat team playing shorthanded, without guards Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo.

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It was an embarrassing defeat, even if they did crawl back from a 3-0 deficit to force a Game 7. Of course, why would the No. 2 seed have to state a rally against a shorthanded Heat team that was just .500 during the regular season?

One major reason: Mazzulla being in charge of things, according to CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn:

"Mazzulla’s hesitance to call timeouts has been well-documented. He didn’t go back to the bigger starting lineup that helped carry Boston to the Finals a season ago until Game 6 of the second round this season, when the Celtics were one game away from elimination. Their offense grew entirely too dependent on 3-pointers, with Miami combining to make 18 more 3-pointers than Boston in its four victories. The decision to play a clearly injured Brogdon in Game 7 made little sense, and the Celtics lost his seven minutes by 15 points. These would be fireable offenses for a more experienced coach."

Miami had a veteran coach in Erik Spoelstra who has won multiple championships and been to the NBA finals six times in his fifteen years coaching the Heat. It was a huge mismatch.

The problem of having an inexperienced coach even showed in the first round. The Celtics faced an Atlanta Hawks team looking to the future, not looking for current success. They had fired coach Nate McMillan a few months before the end of the season and hired Quin Snyder.

Snyder, who had a ton of playoff experience coaching the Jazz, was just supposed to evaluate the team from the bench to see what players he liked (like Trae Young) or wanted to get rid of (also possibly Trae Young). A playoff run was not one of their goals.

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However, with the experienced Snyder running things, the Hawks took the Celtics to six games. Boston pummeled the Hawks in the first two games at TD Garden and looked ready to sweep. But, as a veteran coach should, Snyder kept his players’ spirits up and went 2-2 the rest of the way against the far more talented Celtics (and Game 6 was a five-point game with 90 seconds to go).