PHILADELPHIA — Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla’s interactions with the media during his first season have often oscillated between being awkward and testy. On Thursday evening, after a brief video conference with reporters, it appeared Mazzulla was once again frustrated with the line of questioning.
“I’m the worst coach ever,” he said after he stood up from his chair at the conclusion of the session.
But it turns out Mazzulla just had some regret about failing to recognize guard Marcus Smart. During the video conference, Mazzulla was asked about Smart winning the NBA’s Hustle Award for the second year in a row. He realized then that he hadn’t congratulated Smart for the honor.
“Someone here asked me about it and my eyes lit up. I was like, ‘What an idiot,’ ” Mazzulla said Friday, before the Celtics beat the 76ers, 114-102, in Game 3 at the Wells Fargo Center. “As I was signing off, I was just like, ‘Damn,’ and then I texted him right away. That’s important. I think in situations, I know it’s about team and our guys do that, but I really love showing appreciation when guys get individual awards, especially like that one because of the sacrifice they put into it and the work that they have. So, if I do something like that, I do think I need to be better.”
Earlier Friday, Smart said he was pleased to win the award, which is based on a player’s advanced hustle statistics, for the second consecutive year and the third time overall.
“That’s what I do,” he said. “You know, coming into this league I prided myself on that and nine years in at the age of 29 I’m still doing it, and I’m still doing it very well, so it’s a big-time award. I know it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, I know he doesn’t get the recognition scoring 30 points, but every team needs a guy like me who’s going to come in and do the dirty work so Jayson [Tatum] and Jaylen [Brown] can go out there and do what they do best.”
Deep thoughts from Horford
Al Horford made 44.6 percent of his 3-point attempts during the regular season, ranking second in the NBA. But the Celtics forward entered Game 3 just 5 for 23 from beyond the arc over the previous five playoff contests.
Horford mostly shrugged off the mild downturn and insisted he was confident he’d get back to his prior form.
“Not much difference, really,” he said. “I’m still getting good looks and I’ll continue to shoot them. Even during the season, I went through ups and downs. That’s just part of it when you’re an elite shooter. You’ve got to get them up.”
He got them up and they went down in Game 3. Horford made 5 of 7 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.
Griffin unavailable off bench
Celtics forward Blake Griffin was inactive for Game 3 due to lower back pain. Griffin’s only action of the postseason came in Game 5 of the first round against the Hawks, when he played six minutes … 76ers center Joel Embiid received his MVP trophy from NBA commissioner Adam Silver during a pregame ceremony.