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HomeBasketball TodayCeltics' Mazzulla & Horford: Mind-Blown over Xavier Tillman Trade Bombshell before Deadline!

Celtics’ Mazzulla & Horford: Mind-Blown over Xavier Tillman Trade Bombshell before Deadline!

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Sure enough, Joe Mazzulla and Al Horford loved the move…

This past offseason, the Boston Celtics made some major changes, and they’ve paid off so far. After defeating the pesky Atlanta Hawks 125-117 on Wednesday night, Boston improved to 39-12 overall while remaining in first place in the Eastern Conference.

Even though Boston is five games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Cavaliers, its front office isn’t satisfied. Just hours before tip-off against the Hawks, the Celtics got to work and traded two second-round picks and forward Lamar Stevens in exchange for Memphis Grizzlies big man Xavier Tillman.

Boston’s starting five is one of the best in the NBA, but the C’s are still trying to work on their depth. The addition of Tillman gives them extra insurance and another frontcourt piece who excels on defense. When asked about the trade, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla listed what Tillman could bring to the table:

“He’s skilled, toughness. He’s well-coached; we’ve obviously paid a lot of attention to him,” Mazzulla said. “His defensive versatility, you know, he has really good numbers against some of the top centers in the league. His pick-and-roll and defensive rim protection is pretty good, and I think he gives us versatility at that position.”

The 6-foot-7 Tillman is currently averaging 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 block in just 20.6 minutes per game. And as Mazzulla said, he’s proven that his game translates to the playoffs against elite big men.

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In the first round of the 2022-23 postseason, Tillman met Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis with some strong defense. He even outplayed him throughout Memphis’ Game 2 victory, notching 22 points and 13 rebounds to Davis’ 13 points and nine rebounds.

Center Al Horford, who Tillman will probably sub in for on occasion, was happy to see Boston acquire the former Grizzly less than 24 hours before the February 8th trade deadline.

“It’s definitely a benefit,” Horford said of Tillman’s arrival. “We’re looking forward to having him here. And he’s a guy that has played on good teams and understands how to play. And yeah, I look forward to playing with him and seeing how he’s going to be able to help us down the stretch.”

Right now, Boston’s center depth chart includes Kristaps Porzingis, Horford, Luke Kornet and Neemias Queta. Porzingis is obviously the star of the show, and he showed it versus the Hawks. The 2018 All-Star posted 31 points and three rebounds and finished off Atlanta with a deep dagger:

Despite his dominance, Porzingis will rest more frequently than his teammates due to his spotty injury history. Horford typically joins the starting lineup when Boston is down a starter, and since Jrue Holiday was sidelined on Wednesday, the 37-year-old was ready to fill in.

The former Hawk torched his old team, posting a stellar stat line of 14 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Although he regularly overcomes his age, Horford doesn’t play both legs of back-to-back games, which creates more opportunity for Tillman.

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Whether or not Tillman comes off the bench before Kornet and Queta remains to be seen. Yet, given his defensive numbers and experience, it’s not hard to imagine him solidifying a spot as the No. 3 big on the Celtics roster.

But, before Boston starts diving into potential lineup shifts, Mazzulla recognized that Tillman has to get to know his new team first.

“It’ll be important for him to get up to speed on our defensive schemes,” Mazzulla stated. “I think he’ll give us some versatility.”


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