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The Celtics led by nine points at halftime on Wednesday night. The Celtics then trailed by 12 points

The Celtics led by nine points at halftime on Wednesday night. The Celtics then trailed by 12 points after the third quarter.

It wasn't pretty, as the Heat bludgeoned the Celtics in that third quarter and withstood a strong Boston push in the fourth quarter to take Game 1 on the road, 123-116.

If there's one thing we know, it's that the Celtics won't panic. They lost Game 1 at home last series, and they lost Game 5 at home, too. Yet for the second straight year, the Celtics were able to be part of the 20 percent of teams in history to still win series after falling behind 3-2. A 1-0 series deficit certainly isn't a catastrophe for this group of Celtics.

But the positivity, really, ends there. The Heat were hungrier in this series opener, and they executed their game plan better than Boston did.

So it was strange -- to say the least -- when Celtics first-year head coach Joe Mazzulla put a rosy spin on his team's performance following the 123-116 loss.

"We won three out of the four quarters," Mazzulla said, disrupting a question about the Celtics potentially entering this game without the right mindset. "We lost one quarter. Because we dropped our sense of urgency. So no."

Mazzulla actually started his press conference with the "won three out of four quarters" statement, too, so it does appear to have been the coach's game plan when he strode to the podium.

That will undoubtedly be the major takeaway from Mazzulla's 7-plus-minute postgame press conference, as it's not the type of message that anyone in Boston wants to hear after yet another home playoff loss. (The Celtics are now 4-4 at home this postseason.)

The message is simple enough, as Mazzulla felt encouraged by the team's start and finish to the game. But it also overlooks just how soundly the Celtics lost that one quarter, as the Heat set a franchise record with 46 points in the third quarter. 

The Celtics won the first quarter by two points, the second quarter by seven points, and the fourth quarter by five points. But the Heat winning the third quarter by 21 points was the difference in the game.

And during that Heat onslaught, Mazzulla was largely a spectator from the sidelines, opting to not call timeouts to try to disrupt the momentum that had clearly shifted in Miami's favor. That's been a sensitive subject for Mazzulla, and he shot back at a reporter for asking about the lack of timeouts during that third quarter.

"I called two [timeouts] in the first quarter," Mazzulla replied."When the reporter asked specifically about the third quarter, Mazzulla sarcastically answered, "Don't call two in the first quarter. Save it for the third-quarter run."

That answer won't be silencing any critics who have watched in disbelief as Mazzulla has allowed teams to go on sustained runs without interruption throughout the entire season and into the postseason. By contrast, when the Celtics started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, Erik Spoelstra quickly called timeout to stop the bleeding and let his team regain its composure. The Heat led by five points when Spoelstra called that timeout; they led by nine four minutes later.

Marcus Smart downplayed that lack of timeouts, in support of his coach.

"Joe's real big on a lot of times not bailing us out on stuff when we're playing like [crap]. So we've gotta look ourselves in the mirror," Smart said. "Joe can call a timeout and then what? We come out and do the same thing? So it's on us."

As for what he would have liked to see from his team in that third quarter, Mazzulla's list was fairly fundamental.

"Um, get better shots. Don't turn it over. And don't foul. Don't give up offensive rebounds. And don't give up threes," he answered. 

Mazzulla's overall assessment of that third quarter? He said the Celtics let go of the rope. Naturally, he was asked why they let go of the rope.

"I don't know. It's a great question," he said. "That's what we have to figure out, but it came from our attention to detail. But we were prepared for the game. We were prepared for them and our guys came out and played. And then we have to be better than the third quarter."

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Mazzulla didn't have a whole lot to say overall, and it's that "three out of four quarters" line that's sure to be ringing out on the Boston airwaves over the next two days, as the Celtics now will have a critical Game 2 back on their home court on Friday night. 

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