And those individual possessions failed in comparison to the signature performances from Horford (Game 4), Jayson Tatum (Game 6) and Grant Williams (Game 7). Without any of them, the Eastern Conference semifinals may have went a different way, especially after Boston’s devastating Game 5 collapse.
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, though, will remember different intricacies along with the bigger picture when he reflects on his second playoff series at the helm.
“The intensity and figuring out how to defend a high-level player that’s very unique. That always stands out,” Udoka said on Monday when asked about what stuck out from the series, referencing Antetokounmpo. “Figuring how to attack a team that really packs the paint and protects the rim, that’s kind of a chess match and adjustment part that I love about it, going through a playoff series. So matching wits with another staff and coach Bud (Mike Budenholzer), who I knew well.”
Udoka also pointed to Boston’s ability to respond to adversity and win the final two games of the series as a “defining moment” for the team.
“And just the hard fought, as you know every round gets more intense and you understand that going into Miami, but looking back just some things we overcame,” Udoka added. “Not playing our best basketball and digging out some wins and bouncing back from a tough loss in Game 5, how we put it behind us as a group, never wavered with our belief in ourselves and came out and got two in a row. So those things are defining moments for our team that should help us going forward. And so you look back and you hear about the numbers of 82%, like I mentioned last night, teams that lose Game 5 lose a series. But we showed our resiliency and that helps us going forward as a team.”
The Celtics now will look to continue their postseason stretch as Boston takes on the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday with tipoff set for 8:30 p.m. ET.