Why Ime Udoka Benched Celtics Forward: ‘We Talked About (This)’

Getty Images Celtics head coach Ime Udoka directs his team

After surrendering a 121-100 preseason finale loss to the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka had plenty to say about his ongoing mission to change his team’s attitude ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

Playing without five of their guys, including All-Star Jaylen Brown (COVID-19), Al Horford (COVID-19), and Robert Williams (right knee), the Celtics’ door of opportunity swung open for guys such as Romeo Langford, Jabari Parker, and Grant Williams.

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However, Grant, whose role with the team, like many others, is currently in flux, learned a lesson from his new head coach as Udoka is in the midst of correcting what he’s calling an “ongoing theme” that’s plaguing his team.

Celtics’ Ime Udoka: ‘We Lost Composure’

During the second half of Friday’s loss, when things didn’t go their way with the officials, the Celtics regressed to being the complainers they often were last season — which is a habit Udoka has been trying to remove since training camp.

“When things started going bad in the second quarter we didn’t get a few foul calls; we lost composure on the other end,” Udoka said after the Celtics’ loss, Friday night. “Started crying to the refs a little, too much. They got out in transition, lost our focus on shooters and I feel that was because of some of the foul calls.”

Ime believes it’s a big reason why the Heat’s offense caught fire in the second half.

“Just keep attacking the basket. Those fouls are going to even out,” Udoka added. “Got to keep our composure there. Say one thing when you get back (on defense) if you have to. But, we’re going to have to keep technicals down, and for the most part just stay mentally tougher than we have been, so far.”

Udoka On Benching Grant Williams: Foul Trouble, ‘Complaining,’

Udoka was asked if complaining to the officials was the main reason why Grant Williams, who gave a referee an earful after committing a foul in the third quarter before heading to the bench, was immediately subbed out of the game following the incident.

“Two reasons: him complaining, but also I think he picked up his fourth foul on that play if I remember correctly,” Udoka replied. “The main thing I’m telling him is to get back and stop worrying about the referee. Your guy (on defense) is bringing it right behind you. So, that was a part of it but I think he did have his fourth foul as well. Just a learning moment and can’t get caught up in that.”

Boston fell victim to Miami’s fast-break play — which led to easy buckets for the Heat, including 52 points in the paint and 27 points off of 18 Celtics turnovers. Starters Dennis Schroder (3), Parker (3), and Langford (2) led Boston’s defense, they combined for eight steals while the Celtics coerced the Heat to commit a game-high 19 turnovers.

Still, the Celtics’ defense couldn’t cool off Miami’s offense in the second half. Led by Tyler Herro (29 points, 4 assists) and Jimmy Butler (25 points, 4 assists), the Heat outscored the Celtics 62-45 in the second half.

“You got to play through it just like they did,” Udoka said. “They played with pace when we cried about calls. They were running out and got too many easy looks. (It’s) something, like I said, we talked about early in training camp and something I’m going to keep hammering away on until we get to where we want to be.”


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