MIAMI (AP) — There’s been a notion in the NBA for years, one that says the game changes when the postseason rolls around.

Joe Mazzulla disagrees.

In the eyes of the Boston coach, nothing really changes from the regular season to the playoffs. It’s a game. Show up and play. That’s what he expected when the season started in October, that’s what he expects now that it’s April and it sounds like that’s what he’ll expect if the Celtics are still playing when the NBA Finals roll around in June, too.

“To me, I know it’s mundane and the playoffs create a lot of hysteria, but there’s no difference between a regular-season and a playoff game,” Mazzulla said after Game 3 of the Boston-Miami series. “You’ve just got to bring it, mentally, physically emotionally. You’ve just got to bring it and you’ve got to execute.”

There seem to be some that agree with Mazzulla’s way of thinking.

Take Denver center Nikola Jokic, for example. The defending champion Nuggets lost in Los Angeles to the Lakers on Saturday night, missing out on a chance for a four-game sweep in Round 1. Denver gets another chance to advance when the series returns to the Nuggets’ home floor on Monday night.

“We will win or we will lose,” Jokic said. “We will see what’s going to happen. Hopefully we can win at home. After that, if we lose, we have another opportunity.”

It really can’t get simpler than that.

There are certainly some arguments to be made that playoff basketball and regular-season basketball are different. Entering Sunday — albeit with a much smaller sample size — teams were scoring 103.8 points per game so far in Round 1, down 9.1% from the regular-season rate of 114.2 per game. Other notable stat drops: field-goal percentage (45% playoffs, 47% regular season) and 3-point percentage (34% playoffs, 37% regular season).

“I think there’s a difference, for sure,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said. “It’s a lot more intense. The pressure is a little bit up. But at the end of the day, it’s just basketball. We just come out and execute and be the harder-playing team. We shouldn’t see a difference.”

There is one difference — those situations where being down 3-anything in a series brings an urgency that doesn’t exist throughout most of the regular season, until those games at the end where a team is facing elimination from postseason contention.

“It’s one game at a time,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said, with his team facing elimination by Denver. “That’s all we have is the next game.”

Clearly, that changes things. But the Celtics aren’t anywhere near elimination in their series with Miami, leading 2-1 — which is why Mazzulla can rightly insist the postseason game is largely the same as the regular-season variety.

“At the end of the day, the game’s pretty simple,” Mazzulla said. “You’ve got to find the simple things that you can execute, the simple things that you can take away, and then it’s how you just bring the right mindset and the physicality.”



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