With just one day off between Games 3 and 4 of what so far has been a series that is both tightly contested and dominated by strong close-out runs from both sides, the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors updated the media on just about everything from injuries to enjoying the bright lights of the Playoffs. Read on for insight from Ime Udoka, Jaylen Brown, Steve Kerr, and more starting with news related to — *performs best Eddie Palladino impression* — YOURRRR BOSTONNNNNN CELTICSSSSSSSSS.
Ime Udoka is pleased with how the Celtics moved the ball in Game 3. And he has every reason to be.
Save the horrid third-quarter performances that have been coming at a pace unlike that of any champion in recent memory, Boston’s Achilles heel during this postseason run has undoubtedly been its inability to take care of the basketball. The Celtics have recorded 14.1 turnovers per game in these Playoffs, ninth in the field. That’s not too bad, all things considered. But there’s a significant disparity between how securely they safeguard the rock in wins (12.8/game) and in losses (16.7/game, third-worst in the field).
Celtics’ coach Ime Udoka knows how imperative it is that the Celtics take care of the ball. They had just 12 giveaways in Game 3. In doing so, they improved to 13-2 this season when they have fewer than 15 turnovers as a team.
Following the team’s huge bounce-back win in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead over the Warriors, he noted it as one of his biggest keys moving forward.
“My key is how we are moving the ball,” Udoka said at Thursday’s practice. “When we are playing the right way, you can see it.” In addition, he gave specific props to Jaylen Brown, to which they were undoubtedly due. Brown had just five assists, but his unselfishness down the stretch was huge. Udoka noted that Brown “did all a hell of a job last night” all around, praising his defense and his playmaking, in particular.
Boston recorded 28 assists in Game 3, their second-highest total of the series — 33 in Game 1, the team’s other win; sensing a trend?. It was just the second time they’ve hit that number since Game 1 of the Miami series. Udoka gave some flowers to a deserving Jaylen Brown. I’ll give my bouquet to Jayson Tatum, who led the Celtics with nine assists on the night. When Jayson Tatum has dished out seven or more dimes this season, the Celtics have gone 18-2, including 15 wins in a row.
Five players finished the night in double-figures offensively — Brown (27), Tatum (26), Marcus Smart, (24), Al Horford (11), and Grant Williams (10) — a stat indicative of just how streamlined Boston’s winning formula can be when the ball is being shared as though on a string.
The three aforementioned C’s with 20-plus points also had at least five rebounds and five assists, thus making them the first trio to each have 20 points, five boards, and five dimes in a Finals game since 1984 (Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Michael Cooper). That’s solid company, huh?
Jaylen Brown is pacing the Celtics, but he’s also enjoying the moment.
This time last season, the Boston Celtics were long-removed from their elimination from the postseason; they were throttled into submission by a Brooklyn Nets team people still seem to be convinced should and would have won the 2021 NBA title if Kevin Durant’s “big-ass foot” was just a smidge smaller than it is, aka the length of a grown Pterodactyl’s. In that series — well, all year, actually — Boston lacked defensive cohesion, discipline on either end, and talent that could match up with the three-headed monster of Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. Despite the fact that two of those dudes were regularly unhealthy or unable to play given their fear of needles, one or one-and-a-half of them was enough to beat a Boston team that wanted to get the boot as soon as possible.
A big part of the reason for that? Jaylen Brown’s absence, which people seem to have forgotten about way too easily. He required surgery on a torn ligament in his wrist, and it sidelined him for their short-lived playoff run. So, naturally, he’s thrilled to be out there now, playing on the biggest stage of the time of year he most looks forward to.
“I was probably watching the playoffs somewhere,” Brown said earlier today, speaking of last year. “And it hurt. Having to watch my team play without me against Brooklyn, that hurt. Especially knowing I could help my team. The playoffs are my favorite time of year, so this run is so special.”
He’s had an up-and-down road to get to this point, but he’s made the most of his opportunities when called upon, and he appreciates Ime Udoka’s trust when it comes to taking on more responsibility as a playmaker. “It means a lot that he put that faith in me,” Brown said. Udoka added, “I think it was one of [Jaylen’s] best games of getting guys organized” and into their spots.
Brown also said he didn’t know much about the Celtics before getting drafted — a statement I absolutely never buy when a basketball player of NBA caliber says it about the team that drafted them; frankly, any athlete in any sport — but that “things worked out pretty good, I’d say.”
We’d say so, too.
A couple of other things from Celtics practice:
- Ime Udoka on Boston’s size advantage: “We’re the bigger team. We want to impose our size in the series.”
- Jayson Tatum was asked about Ime Udoka being even-keeled: “I don’t if y’all see it, but he cusses us out a lot!” — we see it, and we love it —” But he always had faith in us. Even when we were the 11-seed, Ime believed that we could be here.”
- This, uh, drill...?
Is Ime Udoka actually Gordon Bombay? Are the Celtics actually the Mighty Ducks? They’ve basically transformed from District Five. Also, they’re doing this at practice. Seems pretty Ducks ish. pic.twitter.com/BGbnS5VKpZ— Jay King (@ByJayKing) June 9, 2022
On the Golden State side of things, Steph Curry and Steve Kerr spoke about Curry’s ankle injury.
Early in the fourth quarter, Al Horford dove for a loose ball and inadvertently fell on top of Steph Curry’s left ankle — the same one he injured earlier this season when Marcus Smart dove for a loose ball and landed on his ankle, an unfortunate play that was deemed dirty not by Curry, but by far too many others. Following this play, Curry grimaced, lay on the court for a few minutes, and though he stayed in the game, it was clear that he was laboring. With 2:19 remaining, Steve Kerr pulled his starters, and Curry limped off. He later said that it felt similar to the injury involving Smart, but that he wouldn’t be missing time. Steve Kerr offered his own view today.
“I don’t have any real update. We only had a film session just now. But we expect him to play tomorrow.” The Warriors didn’t practice today, per Kerr, and instead treated Thursday as a recovery day. (Cue the man in the Patriots hat screaming “you’s guys ah sawft” from the seat behind yours at TD Garden in about 36 hours.)
Curry was adamant that no update would change his status for Game 4 on Thursday: “I’m gonna play. That’s all I know right now... Because I went through it, I know exactly what it is and what I need to do to deal with it. I’m good enough to play.” He was also asked whether or not, if this was a regular-season game, he’d sit out. “Hmm...that’s a good question,” he responded. “It depends on where we are at in the season. I don’t really know how to answer that, because the context matters.”
One thing’s for sure: he didn’t know how to answer that. Because that’s a bad answer. Expect Boston to attack his weak side even more now, particularly those that get him guarding them out beyond the arc. What sometimes might have been a pull-up could now become a drive-by layup. Just a thought.
Game 4 tips off Friday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Which means, 9:15 or later. ESPN is sorry for the inconvenience, it’s just that Stephen A. has thoughts about Russell Westbrook’s fictional fit with the Knicks he needs to share.