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June 9, 2022

Ime Udoka

Boston Celtics

Practice Day

Q. Ime, can you sort of describe where Robert was at defensively when you first became coach here and just some of the stuff that he has worked on through the season to get to Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player he is now?

IME UDOKA: I think he's always high level, pretty instinctual guy. Some things that we've asked him to do have been different than he has had to do throughout his career. I think just off the top, the amount of switching and perimeter play, but he is a guy that can do it.

I've played against him in two playoff series, in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, and saw the impact he had on those series. A guy we wanted to keep out of a lot of action.

Obviously, the rim protection stands out, but his ability to move his feet on the perimeter and the luxury of having him off the ball at times and allow Al to kind of be our normal five has benefited our team.

Very multi-dimensional defender that has really good instincts. I would say the modern-day NBA center -- a little undersized, can move his feet, guard on the perimeter, guard in the post and, obviously, rim protection is what he has always naturally done. A huge luxury for us.

Q. We know that on the court when you guys aren't playing well it's the over-penetration, the turnovers, forced shots, but what is it mentally when you see the guys come out and play their worst versus when they're coming out and playing their best like they did in the first half last night especially?

IME UDOKA: You try to simplify it. The main thing with us is, as I mentioned, having a carryover from game to game and do the things that make us successful.

To see us come out very purposeful and deliver it last night on how we were trying to attack them, getting to our spacing quicker and playing with pace quicker so they have to guard longer in the shot clock, those things all stand out. I think it was one of our best games overall as far as that, attacking the areas we really wanted to. Mixing in on ball, off ball and some of the things Golden State is going to do to try to take advantage of that. Have to do it again now.

Q. Is there anything early in the game that you can notice and say, uh-oh, we're in the wrong head space tonight that you can adjust now that you've seen how they've played in the first three games here?

IME UDOKA: I think a big part of it is the turnovers, and that's the key. If we're going to keep it simple and make the right read and make the right play, because they've had some adjustments throughout the series so far. A lot of it has had to do with switching matchups, but our quick recognition of how they're guarding and who they're trying to take away. I think the benefit of our team is we have multiple guys that can attack and kind of initiate offense or score for themselves. There are areas we could definitely attack.

My key is how we're moving the ball and keeping it simple and not over-penetrating, looking for others. It kind of has a domino effect from there, if we're going to have a night where we're going to somewhat struggle or be on point like we were last night.

Q. I've been talking to members of the local Nigerian community here in Boston, and there's a lot of excitement for what you've done, what you've accomplished with the Celtics. First, I just wanted to ask, have you seen and heard any of that excitement? And second, for you personally, have you had any time to reflect on what it means to represent Nigerians on this stage as a coach in the NBA Finals?

IME UDOKA: Your first question, I have heard. I haven't been out and about and done a whole lot to see, but through other people -- I'm not a social media person, but my family and others let me know, obviously.

Not just here in the community, but overall. Whether it's NBBF Nigerian Basketball Federation sites and some of the things since I was a player there, they're obviously quite proud. I heard I've been argued over what tribe my father is from and they're trying to claim where I came from and all that.

For me, it's a source of pride. Anytime there are some firsts, we talked about it's a big thing. Coming up through the Nigerian program as a player, although being born in America, is a source of pride for me, my father and playing with the Federation.

My sister started that, and I kind of got into it with the world championships and the African championships. I'm deeply rooted in that, and I love my time there. It's a source of pride for me, for sure.

Q. 52 points in the paint last night. 24 in Game 3 and 34 in Game 4. Was it more of a concerted effort to get points there and use your athleticism? Was it just the way they were playing you guys? Or was it a mix or both?

IME UDOKA: Mixture. We talked about Game 1, some of the things we did well and the penetrating and kick that got us the threes, obviously, in the fourth quarter there. Then the lack of recognition and missing some outlets in Game 2. That kind of hurt us.

We're the bigger team. We want to impose our size in the series, no doubt about that. Like I said, we have multiple guys that can attack the paint.

The way they help will lead to some kick-out threes. You want to have that balance, but at the same time using our size inside and getting the matchups that we like. The last piece, which we did extremely well last night, was the offensive rebounding. 15 for 22 second-chance points. Those all play into it.

If we can get that mix of paint touches as well as kick-out threes, that would be the perfect storm.

Q. Ime, is Jayson's shoulder affecting his ability to finish? He had a lot of layups that he didn't quite finish last night. He might have gotten fouled. Is he kind of dealing with that? Then the second question is, the eight turnovers in the first half and three or four in the second half, what did you guys do besides not turn the ball over to stop turning the ball over in the second half?

IME UDOKA: Jayson, I think it's a stinger that's going to flare up whenever he gets hit the wrong way. Not sure if it has any impact on him finishing. He is still shooting the ball from three. Just the initial hit where you've seen him get -- had to shoot some free throws after, might be a little numb there. He is shooting threes right after, so I'm not sure it hampers his ability to finish at all.

As far as the turnovers, we understand what our record is when we do and don't. The run that they had in the first half was due to that. A poor shot, we missed some free throws, but two of those were turnovers.

Other than that stretch there, we had done a really good job in the first half. Eight isn't terrible. We would like to keep it under 15. It was an emphasis going into halftime, and to only have four in the second half was huge. Obviously, especially when they're making a run, at least you're not aiding it by letting them get on the break. But there were two stretches in the game, kind of the seven-point play and then the stretch where they made the 9-0 run to get back into it, and those were due to turnovers. As always, we kind of come and go as the turnovers do.

Q. I know it's over a short time span, but how has Jaylen improved in a notable way since you have been his head coach?

IME UDOKA: All around, honestly. Things he does, the versatility he gives us on the defensive end, is what it is. I think that goes trickle-down with Marcus and our bigs as well as our big wings. He has been solid there.

He is one of the guys that probably has had to kind of restructure what he did as a defender. He is usually a guy that locks in on an assignment, on-ball, off-ball, and kind of takes that guy out. Well, we're asking more communication, more recognition, and he is one of the guys that's improved throughout the season as far as that.

Offensively, a culmination of last night was his playmaking ability and his scoring for himself. I think it was one of his best games of getting guys organized into spots he wanted and getting our spacing correct and attacking from there. I think it was almost a perfect night as far as the reads he made with his aggression looking to score, but also one, two dribbles and finding guys all over the court.

That growth, as well as Jayson, was a big point of emphasis coming into the season. I think he did a hell of a job last night.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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