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Jayson Tatum says Ime Udoka “kept the group afloat” amidst early season struggles

After a win over the Kings, Tatum spoke highly of his head coach and how he’s led the Celtics all season long.

Boston Celtics v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics picked up their second win in a row on Friday night, taking down the Sacramento Kings 126-97. Boston rode the red-hot play of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as the star duo dropped 62 combined points.

With the win, the Celtics are now 26-9 in the new year and 16-3 since the start of February. In the latter of the two time periods, Boston holds the best record in the NBA, and it’s been in large part thanks to their defense.

It was clear on Opening Night that Ime Udoka had big dreams on the defensive side of the ball. And while the team (obviously) got off to a rocky start, they’ve turned things around in a big way.

When asked about Udoka after the win over Sacramento, Tatum had nothing but praise for the rookie head coach.

“He’s done a great job. You just think about first-year head coach in Boston with expectations, the rocky start that we had, all the outside noise, and what people expected us to be. I just think that as a coach in general that we’ve been tough, but especially your first year.”

Udoka took home the Coach of the Month award for February, and with how well the Celtics have played in March, he may be the frontrunner to take home back-to-back honors. Boston has the best record of any team in the Eastern Conference so far this month (7-1).

As much as Udoka’s schemes have helped the C’s on the court, Tatum also noted how great he’s been off the court, especially during the team’s early season struggles.

“I think just how he was always uplifting everybody and always kept the right mindset and was always encouraging us that we were gonna figure it out. I think it just kept the group afloat.”

At the midway point of the season, fans and media pundits alike were questioning whether or not Udoka would be back for another season in Boston. Now, it’s easy to argue that he should be in the Coach of the Year conversation.

Obviously, it’s the team’s incredible turnaround that has thrown him in that ring. But according to Tatum, the entire team knew it was just a matter of time before they started winning consistently and it was Udoka who guided them there.

“We always felt we were right there to turning that corner. And we all believed that. He’s done a great job of just making sure that we’re always on the same page.”

Boston continues their west coast trip on Sunday night when they take on the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. That game will tip-off at 8:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Boston.