Mazzulla explains Celtics’ interesting lineup changes for Game 6 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
You want adjustments? Joe Mazzulla will give you adjustments.
The Boston Celtics are planning to start Robert Williams in place of Derrick White for their must-win Game 6 in Philadelphia against the 76ers on Thursday night, Mazzulla confirmed in his pregame press conference. The Athletic’s Jared Weiss and Shams Charania first reported the lineup change.
Tomase: With season on the line, Celtics need Joe Mazzulla to deliver
That means the Celtics will return to the “double big” lineup they employed during their run to the 2022 NBA Finals, with Williams and Al Horford in the frontcourt along with Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
“Just gives us a different look,” Mazzulla told reporters ahead of Game 6. “I think at his best Rob gives us a lift, especially at the defensive end. So just looking for that.
“… Just his presence at the rim, his ability to guard on the perimeter and rebound and screen for us, I think those things he’s been really good at throughout the year, and that’s what we’re looking for from him tonight.”
Boston found significant success with the Williams/Horford pairing during the regular season, but the duo has struggled during their brief time on the court in this series, our Chris Forsberg notes.
Celtics with Rob/Al double big lineup this series:
7 minutes, -5 plus/minus
Celtics just 2-10 shooting with duo on floor. Sixers are 4-11 FG in that same tiny span.
During regular season, Celtics were +15.9 net rating in 332 with Rob/Al, including a 103.1 defensive rating.
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) May 11, 2023
Still, the double big lineup would allow Williams to match up with Sixers forward P.J. Tucker and act more as a shot-blocking rover on the back line, while Horford attempts to contain Joel Embiid and Brown matches up on James Harden.
In another interesting development, Weiss and Charania report that backup guard Payton Pritchard is “expected to get more opportunity” in Game 6. Pritchard’s first minutes of the series came in Game 5, when he tallied eight points in nine minutes in the second half with the Celtics already trailing by double digits.
Whether these shifts pay off for Boston remains to be seen, but it sounds like Mazzulla is attempting to push some different buttons with his team’s back against the wall.
NBC Sports Boston‘s coverage of Game 6 begins at 6:30 p.m. ET with “Celtics Pregame Live” ahead of tip-off at 7:30 p.m. from Wells Fargo Center.