MIAMI — With 2:59 left in the Boston Celtics’ tumultuous third-quarter performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, Celtics’ Grant Williams was subbed out of the game by head coach Ime Udoka. And the two got into a heated discussion in front of Boston’s bench.
The Heat, who were on the verge of outscoring the Celtics 39-14 after halftime, pulled ahead and never looked back as they cruised to a 118-107 win in the series opener.
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Williams got the nod to start at power forward for Al Horford, who entered the NBA’s health & safety protocol before tip-off.
Grant Williams on Exchange w/Udoka: ‘It’s Kind of Our Relationship’
However, toward the tail-end of the third quarter, Udoka gave Grant an earful as Williams made his way to the bench. Williams, who was fiery about Ime’s take, went back and forth with the first-year head coach before relenting to his seat on the bench.
“For us, it’s kind of our relationship,” Williams said after the morning shootaround on Thursday. “We kind of can go at it and then we’re completely fine afterward. Some of that is in the heat of the moment thing, where you’re just kind of like understanding what’s going on on the court, what you saw, what happened, what didn’t happen, and what we can do better.”
Grant finished the night with seven points on 2-of-5 attempts, two assists, and one steal. He was also a -14 in the plus/minus category. But most importantly, he was unable to fill a critical void left in the absence of Horford.
Williams: ‘Ime’s My Guy’
Still, the backup big man is confident the Celtics can turn things around in Game 2, Thursday night. And his head coach is one of the biggest reasons for the expected turnaround, according to Grant.
“Ime’s my guy,” Williams added. “At the end of the day, him being a former player helps, even more, because he understands that tenacity, that Heat, and how you feel on the court. He wants to bring the best out of everyone else around you. That’s why he’s not afraid to rip us like he did in that shot in the third quarter. He’s not afraid to call us out one by one. So, for me, I’ve got to understand exactly, hear what he says, and also, we’re going to talk about exactly what I saw, too.
“That way, it’s an open communication and dialogue.”
During his media availability after team shootaround, Udoka talked about Heat center Bam Adebayo and why he’s confident that his big men can deter Bam’s impact in Game 2.
“His versatility is really key to them,” Udoka said. “He started switching a lot, and then they’ll drop into regular coverage and try to keep you off balance, as far as that. Something that we adjusted to well in the first half and then his physicality behind that. He’s a modern-day NBA center that can get out and switch, and some of the benefits we have with guys like Al, Rob, and Grant — bigs that can guard the perimeter at times but also protect the paint.”
With a chance to grab a 2-0 lead in their best-of-7 series, Miami will host Game 2 Thursday night.