To contain the dynamic Ja Morant, head coach Ime Udoka didn't go to his First Team All-Defense candidate point guard in Marcus Smart or insert Derrick White into the starting lineup. Instead, the Celtics baited Morant to challenge their three-headed monster in the frontcourt. Per head coach Ime Udoka, he'd end up scoring "the quietest 38 (he's) ever seen," and for Boston, it contributed heavily to one of the team's biggest wins of the year.
On the latest episode of CelticsPod, hosts Adam Taylor, Will Weir, and Greg Maneikis discussed Thursday's big win and the eclectic three-man rotation of Robert Williams, Al Horford, and Daniel Theis.
“When you don’t have a unicorn, you need to have a stable full of horses,” Weir said when talking about why the Celtics big man rotation is ideal in lieu of a top-5 big man.
“This season, I can’t imagine what the team would look like if we didn’t have Al on this team. Imagine if they didn’t move Kemba, if they tried to make it work with Kemba. That wasn’t going to work. So the fact that we have Al and he’s been so productive, I mean, the guy deserves his flowers for sure,” Maneikis said when discussing Al Horford’s impact this season.
The win over the Grizzlies was the perfect encapsulation of how perseverance and patience has paid off late in the year. The defense gets all the headlines, but the continued growth of the offense, the re-rejuvenation of Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum playing like an All-NBA candidate have also been big contributors to Boston's success. And it was Udoka who was the biggest believer in his team and after winning Coach of the Month for February, it’s time for all the naysayers to start believing in Udoka, too.
“For me, it was along the lines of ‘hey, some of the criticism we, the fans, were giving you was super early in the season. Maybe we should have waited.’ If you start building something, you might not do it the same way as somebody else, but the end result will still get there.
I remember speaking about the over exaggerations, you get people to do things in an exaggerated manner, and then start to peel layers away until you get to a refined product. And it’s clear now, that’s what Udoka was doing to start the season. I remember going on a tangent about it, but at the same time, it was still frustrating to witness,” Taylor said when discussing the Celtics' slow start and the improvements Udoka has made as a coach this season.
Now, the addition of Nik Stauskas doesn't seem like a shot in the dark of finding a late-season savior it might have been perceived as had the season continued the way it was in November and December. Instead, it’s the journeyman shooter that has the opportunity to add to an already established vibe with the Celtics.