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June 15, 2022

Ime Udoka

Boston Celtics

Practice Day

Q. Jayson hasn't been as impactful as usual in the fourth quarters. What is your assessment and what can he tweak to be more efficient?

IME UDOKA: I would say we evaluate him on not only scoring but how he's playing in general. From a scoring standpoint at times this whole series, not only fourth quarter, he's missed some things that he usually makes.

But we do want him to be aggressive and find that balance, as he's done all year. With Golden State specifically, they are trying to take him out at certain times of the game. But it's on him to read that and us to put him in positions where, understanding he's going to be doubled and be the bait at times, get everybody else involved. We have to make them pay as far as that.

I wouldn't say his fourth is not as good or as bad as some of the other quarters. He's had some stretches where he missed. Game 1 stands out, open shots throughout the game. We want him to be aggressive and make the right read, which he's done all year against all the coverages that he's seen.

Q. All of you seem to especially get caught up in relations with the referees in the last game. Do you feel you have to tamp that down a bit?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, I would say so. I think in general just too many conversations being had at times. Feels like after foul calls or dead balls, free throws, timeouts, there's somebody talking to a ref.

Something we emphasized early in the season and had gotten away from quite a bit. So something we got to spend our energy on the game, and everything else going in between, other than the referees. An area we can be better at, for sure.

Q. The situation where Draymond didn't want to let Jayson shoot after the whistle, came to your bench. Does Jayson have to be more pissed about that? He kind of downplayed it after the game. Does that kind of stuff have to drive him and upset him a little bit more? Would you like to see that, a pissed-off Jayson?

IME UDOKA: I would say what I said after I think Game 2. Guys are going to be who they are and handle it however they feel best the way to handle it. Some people, like I said, get into it. Some ignore it. To each their own as far as that.

For us, it's a weird one where someone follows your players to the bench. The referee says that's not inciting anything, instigating anything, as far as that.

Like I said, guys handle it differently. You either use it or don't. Doesn't bother me at all.

Q. What do you think are the most important reasons that you guys have had some difficulties finishing at the rim and producing points in the paint this series?

IME UDOKA: I would say not strong finishes. Some of our drives haven't been as physical as other times. That's an emphasis with us. I've mentioned hunting, looking for fouls instead of going up to finish. Their rotations are pretty direct every time. The guy is going to be there. It's just about making the read.

Credit to Green and what he did, keeping guys off balance, faking and falling, taking away some lobs. For us, it's really the physicality of our finishes. I think we've been off balance, not going up the strongest. Point-blank we missed some that we usually would make.

Because we know where they're going to be with their rotation, it's a mix of getting to the basket and finishing and finding your shooters or guys in the slots. We've seen it all series, where guys do it in a different way, with shot-blockers versus full-team rotations.

But for us, it's really about the physicality of our finishes. I think we've been off balance and not going up as strong as we need to at times.

Q. When you've got a high-caliber defense trying to turn you over every possession, what are the two or three most important things that you guys need to do to keep those to a minimum?

IME UDOKA: Not over-penetrate is one. One or two dribbles too many can get you in trouble. Like I said, doesn't matter if it's Jayson, Jaylen, Derrick, Payton, the rotations are there regardless of who goes to the basket.

Spacing is a big part of it, knowing where your outlets are at, not over-penetrating. The physicality, like I talked about, being strong with the ball. Those are all things we emphasize. It's pretty set. They're going to be there every time. Low man is going to come across, crack back, the guy playing the backside.

For us, spacing is huge. Getting our guys to the spots where we know our outlets are at, being strong with the ball, making a right read. A big part of that is physicality with the ball because they are a team that reaches and has really good hands.

Q. Back to the late-game unraveling in Game 5. How much do you think it was the officiating getting into your head? What have you learned from that experience that might help you in Game 6?

IME UDOKA: I wouldn't say anything specific to do late game with the officiating. I mean, it's a physical series. To Gary's point, I think we're complaining at times too much throughout the game. Late game may not be any different than first, second or third quarter. Some we need to block out and be better at overall.

The thing we can take away is we got a little stagnant again, as opposed to what got us back in the game, which is drive and kick, have them kind of flying around in the third quarter, 10-0 run to start the quarter and what got us a lead.

From there, like I said, it could be a fatigue thing. We'd like to get those guys a little bit more rest and have some fresh bodies coming off the bench to keep them fresh at the end of the game.

You look at all those things, as far as rotations, lineups. The refereeing, I don't know if that impacted anything late game as much as throughout or any different.

Q. Rob Williams has only taken 18 shots in this series. With reads and things like that, is that a situation where you need to look for him more down low, or are they doing a good job kind of challenging and also covering him? And just adjustment-wise for you going into Game 6, when you're talking with your staff, is it a matter of doing what you do better, or are you looking at tweaks, lineup changes?

IME UDOKA: Regarding Rob, I think it is reads. Like I said, the rotations are set there. They're a team that's going to come back and kind of take the big out there. That leaves wide-open kick-outs there. You've seen that at times this series.

Obviously, Game 1 stands out in the fourth quarter, the last game in the third, where they're taking away the driver, two or three on the ball, with Jaylen and Jayson specifically.

Good job of getting into Rob. We have some cross matches on the board so we can get the shot up there. But the kick-outs are maybe more wide open than the drop-offs in this series because they are really good with the rotations.

We're the number one, number two defense in the league. And number five halfcourt, we were number one this year. It's not a fluke when you go through the season. They're all connected like that.

They do a good job as far as that.

Second question?

Q. Tweaks or lineup changes?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, we've talked about it and looked at some of the counters they're trying to make with the guys we bring in. I think small ball has worked for us. We'd obviously like to get a little more out of Payton and Derrick than we did in the last game. Grant has been a big part of what we've done this year. We know what they're trying to do as far as when they substitute. We can combat that with some lineup changes we're looking at.

Q. Klay Thompson hit four pretty big threes in the second half. Generally he seems to be getting more of an offensive rhythm in the series. Do you feel it's him hitting shots, or are you losing him more than you should?

IME UDOKA: We don't feel we're as good as we had been the first few games in the other areas. Obviously, Curry got a ton of the credit for the shots he was making early. Felt our physicality, some of the adjustments we made on him were better. We don't want to lose sight of everything else we've done well, which is the off-ball actions, whether it's slips to the basket, or Thompson in our first two or three possessions, slips for layups to the basket. Something we had taken care of well throughout the series as well as getting to Thompson. I think we lost the rope a little bit there.

For them to have 50 points in the paint is too many in the latter, non-penetration points, off those slips, cuts to the basket. As much as we're focused on Curry, we still have to do those things well.

All that being said, they score 104. If we clean up a few of those mistakes, especially early on at the start of the game, we'd be in much better shape.

Q. A little bit more on the potential lineup changes. I asked you the other day about Otto Porter with Looney. You explained pretty well why you thought the Warriors might do that. With that same explanation, do you now need to consider moving Robert just so he can be out there when Looney is out there?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, even going back to the last series, coming off of injury, we run him shorter stints. We take him out pretty early in the game anyway. We can come back and match him with Looney, no problem.

I think obviously the spacing, they wanted to have him guarding somebody more space oriented. For us, other than last game, we really hadn't gotten off to a poor start. No matter what they did lineup-wise, we were good to start the game for the most part in the first four games.

As far as that, we're rotating Rob out pretty quick to get him back in anyway. That's not something we're looking at as far as changing the starting lineup. It's more so who we want coming in for who, the second unit.

Q. You have obviously been in some tough spots during regular season, in the playoffs. What is your source of optimism right now? What kind of things do you say or do with your team to make sure they share that?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, I mean, you look at the big picture, we're defending well enough to win. It's really some stagnant lulls offensively that have really hurt us. We'll have a quarter or two or three of really good basketball, then have that quarter or two that really have hurt us. That was the fourth quarter a few games ago.

Even last game, once we got the lead, what we did well for the first 9, 10 minutes of the third quarter, we had a little bit of slippage at the end there that allowed them to get back in.

For us, we want to focus on the offensive end, because I think we've guarded enough to win. Game 4, if we finish the game off well, not that five-minute stint, we'd be in good shape.

That's our optimism. We've fought off three elimination games, won some Game 7s. But you can't just rely on that, that we've been there. You have to do things well to start the game, not put ourselves behind the eight ball like we did last game.

As confident as we are in the situations we've been in, we understand Golden State is a high-IQ, well-coached team that's not going to beat themselves. You have to go out there and take it.

For us, confidence always because we've been through it. But we can help ourselves and play better offense overall and not aid them with the turnovers. All the same little things we talked about throughout the series.

Q. When you built your coaching staff this year, Joe Mazzulla was a holdover from Brad's staff. When you added him to your staff, why did you feel he was going to be an asset to your staff? How have you seen him grow as a coach?

IME UDOKA: Yeah, I talked to everybody in the organization when I got hired, players included. He got glowing reviews. I didn't know much about him going into it.

I take the players' opinions at a high value. He was a guy that there was a consensus, yes, somebody that they all worked with closely, believed in and understood his upside.

Once I met with him and Tony Dobbins, Evan Bradds, some of the guys we kept, I think it was pretty easy conversations to see why.

As all young guys, he coached summer league, kind of held everything together while I was gone to Tokyo. The value and the relationship aspect, which was a big part of my coaching staff, he carried over well.

It's easy to see why once I got to know him and be around him. What I've encouraged our guys to do is be more vocal, be more out there, get their own voice. Same way I was kind of brought up in San Antonio.

I think all guys have done that throughout the year. We've all learned each other, for the guys I didn't know as well. Obviously with the Miami series, that being his scout, you've seen him grow throughout the season. Now he's in the mix for some things. Hopefully it goes well.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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