Ime Udoka: Celtics Need Stronger Start, Can't Let Heat Get Hot Early in Game 7

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 28, 2022

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 27: Head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics looks on against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 27, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka stressed the importance of a strong start against the Miami Heat on Sunday in the matchup to determine the Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals.

When asked why the Celtics have a tendency to lose their composure, Udoka said the following during a news conference Saturday, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps:

"A lot has to do with our starts and having to play catch-up the whole game. We understood the situation Miami was in last night and didn't play our best basketball in the first quarter defensively and offensively. Playing behind the eight ball most of the game. Although we got the lead late or tied it quite a few times, it felt like we were always in an uphill battle, shooting ourselves in the foot. We'd like to get off to better starts, put some pressure on the opponent when they're in that situation, similar to what we did against Milwaukee in Game 7. That's our mindset coming in. Obviously going into [Miami] we want to start better. We have confidence in going down there winning, too, but we have to get ourselves off to better starts, get ourselves easy baskets and not give them life early in the game."

The Celtics had a chance to put the Heat away Friday, but the visitors jumped out to a 19-9 lead and held an advantage for nearly the entire game. They won 111-103 behind 47 Jimmy Butler points.

The table appeared set for a Celtics win.

Boston won the previous two games by a combined 33 points.

The Heat were once again missing second-leading scorer Tyler Herro (strained groin), and Butler was in a major two-game slump (19 points on 7-of-32 shooting) after suffering a knee injury in Game 3.

Plus, the Celtics were in front of a raucous crowd hungry to watch the team earn its first NBA Finals berth since 2010.

However, the Heat set the tone thanks largely to 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in the first quarter by Butler, who finished with those 47 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals in 46 minutes. He stole the show and helped keep Boston at bay for the majority of the game.

The Celtics did take a 97-94 lead on Derrick White's three-pointer with 4:43 left, but Miami closed the game on a 17-6 run.

Boston will hope for a better start and result Sunday when it visits Miami for Game 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET.