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June 2, 2022

Ime Udoka

Boston Celtics

Game 1: Postgame

Celtics 120, Warriors 108

Q. I'm curious how you grade a Jayson Tatum performance. Feels like you can't always grade it off of his shooting or maybe not even off of assists. Tonight it just felt like the play making that we talked about before the game just showed off at a new level there.

IME UDOKA: Yeah, and to your point, we've talked about it throughout the year and I've talked to him at length about impacting the game when he's not having his best offensive night. So he did that tonight. Obviously going 3-17, that's usually not going to happen.

What he did well and did early was get others involved. 7 of 9 assists pretty early in the game, finished with 13, and the shots not falling, he still attracts a good amount of attention, made the right plays.

I love his growth and progression in those areas, where he's still guarding on the defensive end, still getting others involved, not pouting about his shots, and trying to play through some mistakes and physicality they were playing with him.

When they went a box-and-one on him to try to take him out, it made it tough at times, but that's why we're a team. We don't rely on one guy. You saw others step up tonight.

Q. You've talked a bunch these Playoffs about your guys' struggles in the third quarter. What allowed them to get going there? Conversely, what caused everything to flip the other way again in the fourth?

IME UDOKA: Offensive rebounds to start the quarter, turnovers to start the quarter. We didn't have an extremely high number, only finished with 13. But started the quarter off poorly in that area.

We hadn't played our best by any stretch of the imagination in the first half. To only be down four, we felt we were in decent shape knowing they come out playing hard in the third. Turned the ball over and then Looney on the glass, I think they had four or five offensive rebounds that quarter.

The extra possessions for them, that's obviously way too many, giving up 12 offensive rebounds for 26 points. Way too many.

If we could clean up those areas, we knew we would be in good shape. I think we did that in the fourth quarter. Until they hit that late three, it was a 13-point quarter. Credit to our guys. Credit to Marcus, the Defensive Player of the Year, on the bench, while Payton, Derrick and other guys are stepping up on both ends, and we can bring him in to close it. Like I said, we rely on the team offensively. Offensively they were great, as well, scoring 40. Really the offensive rebounds and turnovers in that quarter got them ahead.

Q. How proud were you of just the fight that you saw in your team tonight, considering they had never had Finals experience before? The lack of nerves they showed.

IME UDOKA: Yeah, that's kind of who we've been all year. Tough grinders, resilient group that we can always know we can rely on our defense to kind of buckle down when needed.

Like I said, we weren't playing our best in the first quarter. Curry got loose, didn't score in the second quarter, and we held them to 22, got ourselves back in the game. They had another big third quarter due to some of our mistakes, lack of physicality on our part. Then we locked down again and played great in the fourth.

We always rely on that. Impressive against a really elite scoring team.

Q. I understand that you take a win no matter how it comes. I get that. But in a weird way is it more rewarding when you're not riding a guy who scored 40 or something like that, when you had so many guys especially in the fourth doing it on both ends? Does that make it even more significant the way you guys did it?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, for two reasons I think. Like I said, we do look at ourselves as a complete unit, as a team. We've seen the teams that rely on guys in the Playoffs, whether it was Brooklyn the first round with Durant, Milwaukee with Antetokounmpo and Miami with Butler. We know if you take those guys out, teams are going to struggle.

We pride ourselves on everybody being able to contribute on both ends. That's rewarding, especially on a night when your best guy has an off night. Others step up. Like I said, some of the starters on the bench, other guys are playing great, Al coming in, stepping up late.

So it is rewarding, and knowing we can play so much better, that's the main thing. Didn't have a great three quarters and kept ourselves in the game, then locked down when we needed to.

Q. Can you talk to us a little bit about the play of Derrick White in the fourth quarter when you guys made that mini run. He really was playing aggressive throughout the game, but what did he really bring to the table to help that start run in the fourth quarter?

IME UDOKA: A little bit of everything. Obviously going five for eight from three. But play making, shot making and defense. You talk about we don't have much drop-off when Marcus goes out and he comes in, his size and versatility on the defensive end, playmaking ability to get guys involved and be aggressive on offense was huge tonight.

To get 21 from him when other guys were struggling, 24 -- even Payton's eight, 24 from Al, 26 from JB, because it was on a night when JT is not going. We needed that from them. That unit kept us rolling in the fourth quarter to start and defended extremely well.

Derrick has been playing extremely well lately, as you saw in the last few games in the Miami series.

Q. You held the Warriors to 16 points in the fourth quarter while going with a smaller lineup. How was that group able to do that?

IME UDOKA: I think our reds, our switches were aggressive. At times some of our bigger guys were getting caught too low, especially when Curry was getting going early. We wanted to go to a smaller unit, kind of get more aggressive on the ball. A lot of small-small. We did some pre-switching to keep the bigs out of the actions and took some time off the clock.

This is what we rely on all year, our one-on-one defense. Guys really clamped in a little bit better, more physicality, more awareness on their shooters taking up some space. Seemed like that seemed to wear them down a little bit.

But we pride ourselves on guys having to beat us one-on-one all night. Although he had 34, only 13 after the first quarter, so did a decent job after that.

Q. You guys shot a high proportion of threes tonight, especially down the stretch. I think you had nine in the fourth. You had five in like a two-minute stretch. Is that basically what they were giving you all night?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, late in the game they went into box-and-one on JB. Early in the game they went to box-and-one on JT. They went to zone some late. We started getting some penetration, getting to the basket. They zoned up a little bit. Every time we got the ball in the middle, they collapsed the paint and kick-outs were wide open there. Guys stepped up and made them.

We'll take that all the time. Knowing they're a little smaller, don't have rim protection, they do it as a team. That's a shot they give up a lot of times.

Q. We've seen Jaylen every year in his career get better and better at scoring and isolations, creating for others. How would you say he's progressed in your assessment as an isolation creator, not just in the regular season but in these Playoffs as well?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, it's something he's growing and learning about. Still learning to play in that crowd and make the right read at times. But early in the game he got a little dribble heavy at times, had some turnovers and some tough shots.

We showed that at halftime that we don't have to take any of those. They're going to collapse the paint, know where your outlets are at, let's get our spacing correct. They do have some favorable matchups for us that we can attack. We got to that in the second half.

Had a great start to the fourth quarter. With JT struggling a little bit, we went to him more. He was extremely aggressive getting downhill. Got the bigs switching on him and got the shots that he wanted.

Q. I think in the first half the broadcast caught Marcus saying something about adjusting a little bit defensively, asking the bigs to come up a little bit more. In the fourth quarter specifically, did you address anything you guys were doing defensively? Did you ask the guys to do anything differently?

IME UDOKA: We started switching more instead of -- you know, they were attacking Rob at times with Wiggins. He was a little bit too low. Al was as well. So we got a little bit more aggressive and took away some of their airspace on the threes, tried to get them inside the three-point line and make them beat us there, as well as going with the small lineup. Did some pre-switching to keep the bigs off, and it worked well for us.

Q. Steph was saying yesterday thinking back to his first Finals, Game 1 of his first Finals was the day he felt the jitters. Felt like you could see it out there with a few air balls. What is it like to withstand a huge first quarter from Steph, withstand that crowd, till at the end of this like come out with a win?

IME UDOKA: It's a confidence builder because we didn't play our best at all. Obviously Jayson didn't play his best. Every time we looked up, 32-28 after the first quarter, only down four at halftime. We hadn't played well at all. They finally stretched the lead a little bit to get it to 92-80 going into the fourth. We had a huge quarter there.

Knowing what we can do defensively, if we're a little more tuned in -- lack of communication in the first half -- I think obviously shows the blueprint for what we can do there. Getting those opening night jitters out, I think that settled some as the game went on. We saw the guys step up.

We don't expect JT to have a tough shooting night like that again. I don't know if you attribute it to jitters, some of the defense they were throwing at him, box-and-one, some of those zones. But it shows what we are, which is a team.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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