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Ime Udoka Told the Celtics to 'Stop Playing Like Assholes' And They Did

Liam McKeone
2022 NBA Finals - Game Three
2022 NBA Finals - Game Three / Elsa/GettyImages
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The scoreboard says the Boston Celtics had near wire-to-wire control of Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Anyone who watched the game can say it was more of a rollercoaster than it appears. Boston jumped out to an early lead and managed to keep the Warriors at arm's length but Golden State's propensity to rain fire at a moment's notice kept things close.

The Celtics were not helping themselves, either. Al Horford and Robert Williams struggled with the idea of not letting Stephen Curry walk into three-pointers on pick-and-rolls for the first three quarters. As a team they managed to keep their turnover numbers low but the turnovers that did occur were bad, especially by Marcus Smart. Good basketball was being played but once every five or so possessions somebody would take a turn shooting the team in the foot and crack the door open for a Warriors team that doesn't need much more than a sliver to blow a game open.

Ime Udoka, who is blunt if anything, naturally noticed this. According to longtime Celtics beat writer Steve Bulpett, Udoka made an honest ask of his players.

And dammit, they did! The Celtics did stop playing like assholes.

If one were to take a gander, this exchange probably came around the time the Warriors took back the lead late in the third quarter. Boston has had issues in the first frame after halftime all series. Golden State went on a 10-0 run to complete the comeback and go up 83-82, helped along by the seven-point possession. The Warriors were making their shots but it certainly felt like the Celtics were letting them back into the game rather than getting steamrolled.

If this was the point Udoka told everybody to stop playing like assholes, it worked. Boston didn't trail after retaking the lead. They'd proceed to hold the Warriors to 11 points in the final frame. Most importantly, Boston didn't commit a turnover for the first eight minutes of the fourth and forced five Warriors turnovers in the same timespan. They did not play perfect basketball, seeing as they only scored 23 points of their own, but they played good basketball. They played like they're capable of. They did not play like assholes.

Udoka's coaching style is quickly turning into legend. He tells his players they're playing badly, they acknowledge he's right and do what they can to change that. Simple, yet effective.

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