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May 25, 2022

Ime Udoka

Boston Celtics

Game 5: Postgame

Celtics 93, Heat 80

Q. Did you get the sense with the way this game was going that if even one of your guys got marginally hot that that would be what you needed?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, we weren't playing our best in the first half in a lot of ways. Sometimes that's all it takes, one guy to get back to his average game.

Across the board, just too many turnovers, too many offensive rebounds, second-chance points, things that we've emphasized. With that being said, they had 47 points at the half. We felt we were in good shape if we cleaned up turnovers, limited them.

Small things like that, it helps obviously to get some of our guys going offensively. What was important was that we cut down the turnovers, only five in the second half, only eight second-chance points. That's where you get the result, 38-point half, hold them to 80 points.

Q. After Jaylen's second or third turnover, you pulled him. There was a conversation there. Did you tell him to calm down? What happened when he flipped the script in the second half?

IME UDOKA: It's the same thing, the crowd is there, you're acting like you're surprised that they're reaching and poking him from behind. It wasn't as much like live ball turnovers, trying to make a nice pass. It was literally getting taken from us.

Be strong with the ball. Five games in now, we're having too many of these type of turnovers, not being strong with the ball in the crowd. He understood that.

To your point, we talked about it at halftime. Them having 47 points, us giving up 34 of those with extra second-chance points and turnovers.

Knew if we cleaned that up, we'd be in good shape. Obviously, he and the rest of the group did a great job.

Q. Overall, just in your mind, how impressive was that second half, what you were able to do defensively? Also the feeling of being up 3-2 now heading back to Boston for a Game 6?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, it was big. To be that close and know we didn't play our best in the first half, we talked about flipping the script, playing a really good second half, a really clean second half. We did that.

Guys, J.T. and J.B. got it going, both those guys, almost a triple-double [for Tatum], and 25 points for J.B. It was simply, like I said, taking care of the basketball, the emphasis of this whole series, and limit them to one shot. So, we were guarding extremely well. It's impressive to hold a team to 80, not playing your best offensive game.

As I always say, we rely on the defensive end. Know our offense will pick up eventually. When we get the stops to get out and run, we're kind of a lethal team on both ends.

To your point, I'm sorry, great to be up 3-2. Obviously going back home, you don't want to be down. It's an elimination game, to have it on our home court is an advantage. They beat us there already. So have to come out with the same urgency after these last two wins, try to put it away.

Q. What is it about you guys, especially as time has passed, that these things aren't rattling, you guys are able to stay steady?

IME UDOKA: I would say our defense, we stayed steady there. We kept our composure tonight as opposed to some other games. We were playing our best game and kind of fell off a cliff in those two quarters. Tonight we kept our composure. We still relied on our defense, stayed solid there and knew if we got our offensive game going, taking care of the ball, getting shots up, we'd be in good shape.

To hold them to that number in the first half when we weren't playing our best offensively, like we say, we rely on our defense. That travels well with us. We knew we were guarding at a high enough level that if we just turned the corner offensively, we would be in good shape. That's what the message was. We're not playing our best, close game, and if we just have a decent above, average half, we'll be in good shape.

Q. Marcus Smart picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. Looked like he was waving you off. In that moment, how much was the importance of that third quarter stretch a factor in your decision to keep him on the court?

IME UDOKA: It's both. It's trusting Marcus, that he knows how to play with those four fouls. Partially as Derrick is right there in case, you have a really good obviously insurance policy. But at the same time we were playing really well that third quarter and didn't want to break the momentum with that group.

You trust your guys. He understands the situation, fouls, not getting his fifth. That communication is open. Tell him to be smart. We'd get him out later in the quarter when we can.

Like I said, the third quarter was really going well for us on both ends. Didn't want to break that momentum.

Q. Was Rob dealing with something at the beginning of the third?

IME UDOKA: Just got an extra stretch at halftime. Kind of uncommon. When he was going to come out, he just wanted to extra stretch. Give him a little more time. Went with Grant to start the third. Nothing specific. Just a little body overall tightness, cramping, whatever it may be.

Q. How did Marcus look to you?

IME UDOKA: Solid. I mean, he knows how to play through it, with an injury. You could tell he was not as explosive or quick, but what he does on the defensive end and just in general being the leader out there, carries over well for us regardless of the stat sheet.

He gets us into our sets. It was obviously nice to have Derrick take up the majority of the load with Marcus not being 100 percent. Credit to him for playing, just as Rob has. We know the importance whether it's 15 or 20 minutes what we get from those guys is invaluable.

Q. J.T. was grabbing at his shoulder a ton in the first half. J.B. was out of his rhythm. Your top players weren't really finding their shots. As the game went on, their top guys seemed to kind of wear down. That's when your guys stepped up. How is your team designed well to be able to outlast your opponents?

IME UDOKA: I think the mental stress and strain we put on some teams with our defense has worked and carried us through the Playoffs at times. You saw in the Brooklyn series guys started to wear down. Game 7, Antetokounmpo slowed down some. But having all those bodies to continue to throw at people wears down on them physically and mentally, making it tough. As long as we don't give them easy baskets in transition. With our guys, we're always confident they'll get it going and figure it out it eventually.

To your point, we didn't play our best half with those two. Takes one or two shots for them to go down to get going. Our thing was to take care of the ball, make them score in the halfcourt, get stops and get out and run. We did that in the second half, but always staying confident in those guys, knowing they can get it going at the drop of a dime.

Q. What was the difference in your mind from first half Jaylen to what we saw in the second half?

IME UDOKA: He didn't turn it over.

Q. Before Game 4, Derrick talked about wanting to be more aggressive. He was going to make a point of it. How has that aggressiveness played out in terms of benefiting you guys?

IME UDOKA: You said Derrick?

Q. Yes.

IME UDOKA: Yeah, I think obviously starting last game with Marcus helped put him in a position to make more plays. He's going to have a weaker defender on him, with J.B. and J.T. kind of being blanketed, he could take advantage of those. Capable scorer, driver, initiator. One of our best guys at quick decisions, getting downhill and making plays. We trust in him to do that.

Took advantage of some double-teams on Jayson. He's really good at making the play behind. We trust him to get the ball in the middle, whether he has a floater pullup or finding guys on the perimeter.

I think last game kind of sparked it with the extra opportunity of Marcus being out. Great to have him back in that role coming with same aggression off the bench.

Q. Getting on the verge of the Finals is a step this franchise got to a bunch the last couple years. What is the message over the next couple days with the series going back home to have the opportunity to close this out?

IME UDOKA: Nothing changes. We had to come out with the right mentality after a win, and we did that. We wanted to do the same, close it out at home. Know the urgency of not coming back here.

For our guys, it's just one more step, continue to grind it out. Like I said, we wear teams out defensively and make it extra hard on them mentally and physically. If we do that, we put ourselves in good shape. Not just give up those 39-point quarters or turnovers that give teams hope and life. We know what we're all about. For us, I don't think anybody's looking at getting to the Finals. We know what the deal is, what the task at hand is.

Q. You talk about throwing different bodies at their top guys. You had Horford and Grant on Butler, then Rob on Bam. What made you want to do that? What part of the court did you want to shrink it down to?

IME UDOKA: Stay locked up to their shooters, make the others score, some of the guys that initiate offense for them, whether it's Bam or Butler as well, then helping off Tucker some.

Really Butler wasn't looking to score. He was more of a screener, making plays in the pocket. He was slipping behind some of our switches. We wanted to keep a big on him, play him like a big, play him in more traditional drop coverage.

He hurt us in the first half. We switched it up in the second half to limit his effectiveness as a screener.

Q. Back to Jaylen, but could you be a little more expansive. Beyond the turnovers, cutting those down, obviously he was making baskets for you on the offensive end as well, had the big dunk. What clicked in for him there?

IME UDOKA: He got some really good looks. Even early in the second half we missed some. I think once Jayson got going, he started becoming more aggressive, got off the ball.

Anytime Jaylen is on the second side, he's lethal, whether it's the catch-and-shoot or pull-it. We found him coming out of timeouts for some quick drives that got him going.

His aggression was great. He made decisive decisions quick and didn't play in the crowd. He took care of the ball, got shots up.

Whether he takes a tough pull-up, some guys are tough shot makers, and he's one of them. We'd rather have him do that 100 percent of the time rather than turn the ball over. We just told him to get shots up, see the crowd, get off the ball, but be aggressive when we need it and he did it.

Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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