Ime Udoka came down hard on the Boston Celtics following a string of losses that were due to leads blown late, most notably blowing a 25-point lead to the Knicks in early January.
“We just pointed that out to the team yesterday,” Udoka said Wednesday. “Going 21-6 in those 27 since that game, we had lost back-to-back on a missed layup against San Antonio and then obviously giving up the big lead to the Knicks and (R.J.) Barrett hitting the game-winner at the buzzer. And so I challenged their mental toughness.”
Jaylen Brown’s random tweet of “The energy is about to shift” was put out by Brown with little to no context on the situation a couple of weeks following Udoka challenging his team, and it lead to Boston’s nine-game win streak and their 21-6 run.
Udoka says there were mixed reactions among the group about the coach’s criticism, but as a group, the team responded well.
“Some people liked it, some people didn’t,” said Udoka. “The team responded as they have all year, and we really said just stop messing around and giving up these leads. We had lost two or three 19-point leads, lost some games to Cleveland, Milwaukee on Christmas, Chicago early in there, and then the New York game. So turning point as far as us getting tired of losing the games that we had built up leads.”
Udoka isn’t afraid to be openly vocal about his criticizing of players, and he’s made that very clear — ironically, openly.
“It was pointed out to me that challenging the players publicly wasn’t welcomed by everyone,” said Udoka. “Like I care. The guys love it.”
The Celtics have caught fire and have soared all the way into fifth place of the Eastern Conference, also just a couple of games out of second place in the very competitive East. Boston’s coach said he had had enough of the blown leads, forcing him to challenge Boston mentally.
“I’ve mentioned quite a few times health, getting back healthy and having some consistency as far as lineups, but that was enough is enough as far as losing these leads and losing these types of games that we should win. So I got tired of it, the team got tired of it, we responded well.”
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