What started off as a dominant first quarter run ended in bitter defeat, as the Boston Celtics dropped their first game of the season on Monday night. They suffered a 126-120 defeat to the Chicago Bulls, but Nikola Vucevic’s dominant performance was far from their only enemy.
Throughout the course of the game, as the Bulls made their comeback and eventually jumped out to a massive lead, the Celtics grew increasingly more frustrated with the referees. Jayson Tatum picked up a technical with 7:21 to go in the third quarter after waving his arm as a sign of disagreement.
Not long after, Vucevic thrashed the ball through the air after disagreeing with a call. Tatum quickly ran over to the referees, arguing that Vucevic should have picked up a technical for making a similar motion.
Head coach Joe Mazzulla backed up his star player, but referee Marc Davis handed him a tech. After Mazzulla failed to leave the court, Davis hit him with a second T, ejecting him from the game.
The first-year coach took responsibility for his actions after the game.
“I just have to have better composure under the circumstances,” Mazzulla said. He noted that he did not curse at the officials and wasn’t even talking to Davis when he got the techs. Mazzulla said that he “was just trying to get the referee’s attention.”
Regardless, he said that “in moments like that, when things aren’t going your way, you just have to be more composed. Do a better job.”
Davis explained the ejection in the league’s official pool teport.
“After previously being warned at 4:53 in the [third] quarter, he comes onto the court making unsportsmanlike comments and is assessed his first technical foul. He does not get off the floor and continues to point and complain and is assessed his second technical foul and is ejected as per rule.”
Boston’s officiating woes did not end there. Grant Williams was later called for a blocking foul on Zach LaVine. He immediately popped up in disgust and made a beeline to the sideline. In the process, he bumped into official Cheryl Flores, who promptly ejected him.
Grant Williams joins Joe Mazzulla as he also gets ejected after bumping into the referee pic.twitter.com/htZxVuePnq— hoops bot (@hoops_bot) October 25, 2022
In the pool report, Davis also gave an explanation for Williams’ ejection.
“After it is correctly judged a blocking foul on Williams, he jumps up and approaches official [Cheryl] Flores and makes intentional physical contact with her and he is ejected as per rule for this sportsmanship act.”
Williams had been barking at the officials for several plays leading up to the ejection, and it felt as though a storm was brewing. Most of Boston’s players had been arguing with the referees for the latter half of the game, and it ended up leading to their demise.
Mazzulla said that he talked with Williams after the game, but also joked that he didn’t have much of a moral high ground to stand on.
“We talked. I mean, who am I to talk? But at the same time, we have to be better,” Mazzulla said.
The Celtics lost all composure as the game went on. Chicago ran laps around them on both ends of the floor, and by the time Mazzulla and Williams got ejected, they seemed more concerned with the officiating than the game itself.
"I'm just being honest, it's 82 games plus the playoffs, there's going to be nights like this."— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 25, 2022
Jayson Tatum keeping things in perspective after 120-102 loss to the Bulls pic.twitter.com/ey8HEtv65N
All that being said, it was just the fourth game of the season. And according to Tatum, it was just a bad day at work.
“I mean, in the moment, it can be tough, but you just try to stick together. And, I mean, I’m just being honest - there’s 82 games plus the playoffs. There are going to be nights like this. You just wanna have, more often than not, you keep your composure because we’re all human. It’s like I just had a bad day at work. Everybody has bad days at work. And people respond differently. It’s just, there’s 24,000 people watching us have a bad day at work. But, you know, it happens.”