MIAMI — Ahead of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka said after his team went through a rollercoaster season to get to this point, he’s all quite normal for this series to unfold. in Boston needing to win a third game on the road on the shores of Biscayne Bay to advance to its first NBA Finals since 2010.
“Yeah, I would say so,” Udoka said in a videoconference with reporters on Saturday morning. “It’s not just the series for us – it’s been the whole season. Even in these playoffs it hasn’t been easy…a lot of it has to do with what we do, and we can be better , for Of course.
“But for us it’s another opportunity. You put yourself in that position, going up 3-2, to have two games to win one. So even though you like to finish it on your pitch, we’ve been in place and this show, and because of that, that’s where she’s at right now.”
The Celtics had a chance to close out the Miami Heat at home in Game 6 on Friday night, only for Jimmy Butler to rack up 47 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in 46 minutes in an all-time great performance from the future Hall of Famer. to ensure that this series would reach a seventh game.
But Boston didn’t help themselves by having, once again, a bad start — something that has bothered the Celtics repeatedly in this series. Another constant sore spot – the third trimester – has also been a problem.
With their season on the line in Game 7, Udoka said the Celtics are focused on making sure they get off to a much better start in what could be their final game of the season. After again committing several reckless turnovers in the opening moments of Game 6 and falling to a 12-5 hole, they basically spent the game trying to get out of it.
“It has a lot to do with our starts and having to make up the whole game,” Udoka said when asked what made the Celtics lose their temper during games. “We understood the situation Miami was in last night and we didn’t play our best basketball in the first quarter defensively and offensively. Playing behind the eight ball for most of the game. Although we had taking the lead late or equalizing a few times, it felt like we were always in an uphill battle, shooting ourselves in the foot.
“We’d like to get better starts, put some pressure on the opponent when they’re in that situation, like what we did against Milwaukee in Game 7. That’s our mindset that comes into play. game. Obviously, getting into [Miami], we want to start better. We also have confidence to win there, but we have to get better starts, get easy baskets and not bring them to life early in the game.”
Udoka also talked about how Miami was able to keep Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown off the board in the second half. After Boston’s two star wingers scored 18 points in the first half, they combined to take seven shots in the second half – and only took one each in the fourth quarter, as the Heat went out of his way to force other players to beat them.
It almost worked, as Derrick White in particular had a brilliant game off the bench. Udoka said it’s a balancing act for his stars to find their teammates when the defense crumbles on them while being aggressive enough to make plays for themselves.
“Obviously at the start of the game if they chase them we encourage them to take the ball away and the defense will crumble and open up for them later in the game,” Udoka said. “The guys were making enough plays with the ball. But at the same time, we want these guys to stay aggressive at all times. Find their opportunities, and like I said, a lot of them had turnovers in the pocket. Passed a few open shots and kind of driving in traffic, just encouraged them to be aggressive until then. Obviously the number of field goal attempts from them was low for a half. Miami, c It was their job, to try to take it out of their hands.
“But, like I said, Derrick struggled a bit, but we still want to stay aggressive and play the right game. But at the same time, they’re our scorers, they’re our best scorers, and obviously in the in the fourth quarter, we need them to bring it home, so we need to do a better job of finding them, giving them the ball and putting them in places knowing how the defense protects them.
It would have been hard to imagine a scenario four months ago that the Celtics would be playing in now – let alone Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was that kind of season in Boston. And, Udoka said, the resilience his team has built in the face of the topsy-turvy nature of this campaign is something that can help the Celtics do what they’ve done in each of the last two games at FTX Arena: come out with a win.
“We’ve been a resilient group,” Udoka said. “We’ve overcome a lot this year. In general, nothing has been easy, and that’s how the season has gone. It’s almost as if sometimes we have to take the hardest route and put us in this situation because of some of the things we’ve done on this show.
“[We] understand the big picture and what lies ahead. We gave ourselves the opportunity to have two games to win one, and we have to go finish it in Miami now.”