The Boston Celtics needed to leave no doubt in their game against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. Needing a win by at least 23 points to have a chance to advance to the knockout round of the In-Season Tournament, Boston was incentivized to do whatever it took to pick up a win. They ended up getting across the finish line — they picked up a 124-97 victory and had other results go their way to help them win their group and move on — but one method they used rubbed the opposing head coach the wrong way.
With the team up by 32 points in the fourth quarter, Joe Mazzulla had Jrue Holiday intentionally foul Andre Drummond to send him to the free throw line. The Hack-a-Andre approach isn’t unusual — Drummond is not a particularly strong free throw shooter — but to do it in this situation clearly upset Bulls coach Billy Donovan, to the point that Mazzulla and Donovan met up near midcourt to discuss while the game was going on.
Celtics were intentionally fouling Andre Drummond while up 32 POINTS with 7:02 in the 4Q
Joe Mazzulla had to explain to Billy Donovan they needed to win by 23 to have a chance to advance pic.twitter.com/4rEoWvHfus
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 29, 2023
After the game, Donovan met with the media and made clear that he understood why Mazzulla did this, but expressed that he didn’t like the spot it put Drummond in and pointed out that this happened because point differential is one of the tiebreakers used to determine which teams move on in the In-Season Tournament.
Billy Donovan did not like the Celtics decision to purposefully foul Andre Drummond in the fourth quarter.
Ceded that teams have to chase point differential, but felt that crossed the line.
“I just felt bad for Andre in that situation.” pic.twitter.com/ZmGuwX6Y6r
— Julia Poe (@byjuliapoe) November 29, 2023
Mazzulla addressed it after the game, and gave Donovan credit for understanding the situation they were in. And while he benefited from the strategy, Jaylen Brown told the press that he wouldn’t be especially happy if he was on the other side of this.
Jaylen Brown on #NBA‘s In-Season Tournament:
“That’s just not how the game is supposed to be played, you know … I would be upset as well if we were doing Hack-A-Drummond in the middle of the fourth quarter.”
— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) November 29, 2023
This is not the first time that someone with the Celtics addressed the emphasis on point differential. Over the weekend, Jayson Tatum expressed that he’s “not the biggest fan of” point differential being part of the equation.