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Celtics interim coach Mazzulla 'not surprised' by hot start

Maddie Meyer / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Boston Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla says his team's excellent play to begin the season is in line with his expectations.

"No," Mazzulla said Saturday when asked whether he was surprised with the Celtics' strong start, according to The Athletic's Jared Weiss. "They're good players and good people. They're better at playing than I am coaching, so I'm not surprised."

The Celtics have won 10 of their first 13 games and boast the league's best offensive rating by a comfortable margin. They've beaten Eastern Conference rivals in the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat, as well as potential West contenders in the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets.

Some may have been concerned about Boston coming into the season. Less than a month before opening night, the team suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the entire 2022-23 campaign and named Mazzulla interim coach. Last year - his first with the franchise - Udoka led the Celtics to a 51-31 regular-season record and a Finals appearance.

Another potential issue for the Celtics was the absence of defensive anchor Robert Williams. The center had knee surgery in mid-September, holding him out of training camp and the start of the season. Williams still hasn't returned to the court.

Superstar Jayson Tatum has led the way for Boston's dynamic offense. He's averaging 32.3 points, which would shatter his previous career high. The 24-year-old is also attempting nine free throws per game - third-most in the league - and making 87.2% of them. Tatum was scrutinized for his poor shooting in the NBA Finals when he made just 36.7% of his field goals. This season, he's shooting 50% from the field, another career-high mark.

The Celtics will look to extend their six-game winning streak Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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