Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka and his team are onto Miami in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the Celtics could be without their emotional leader and a critical defensive catalyst when they take the floor at FTX Arena in their best-of-7 series opener against the Miami Heat.
Ime Udoka: Marcus Smart is ‘Questionable’ Vs. Heat
After traveling down to Miami for Game 1, Udoka provided an update from the morning shootaround on Tuesday.
“He’s still pretty sore,” Udoka said per Masslive.com’s Souichi Terada. “He tested out a little bit here, and we’re hoping he’s feeling better. But some soreness there, some swelling, and we’ll monitor him throughout the day. Get some treatment and still be listed as questionable.”
Averaging 15.0 points, 6.2 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 41.6% from the floor, per ESPN.com; Smart has been vital for the Celtics throughout the postseason. While Marcus’s availability for Game 1 remains uncertain, Ime’s focused on the task at hand, a rematch of 2020’s Eastern Conference Finals.
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Although both teams have evolved considerably since then, there was still plenty of material from 2020’s NBA Playoffs in The Bubble for Udoka and his coaching staff.
“We did mention it to coaches that were here; obviously, going back, we took a look at that,” Udoka said from the Auerbach Center, on Monday. “We talked about it amongst ourselves, and then players brought it up, as well. We saw those teams and some of those similarities and what happened in that series. I think us talking about kind of being caught off guard in Game 1 against Milwaukee will bode well for us going into this one. The understanding there are a lot of differences between the teams we’re facing and what they’re all about but being prepared is the main thing.
“You look at a lack of rest or preparation, or whatever, but I also look at consistency and kind of some momentum on our side.”
Udoka Shifts Focus to Miami
In his first year as head coach, Udoka is entering his first best-of-7 series without home-court advantage. However, he’s looking forward to the challenge, hoping the essential lessons the Celtics took in from reaching the brink of elimination in Round 2 against the Bucks will carry over to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“We’ll get out there and play, turn the page really quickly just like we did after we lost Game 5,” Udoka added. “We had a night to get over it and figure out what we were going to do for (Game) 6 and 7, and that’s the same thing for this series. The tough, hard-fought series just ended, but we have to turn the page and focus on Miami now.”
The Heat will host the Celtics in Game 1 on Tuesday.
Udoka announced Smart’s ruled out for Game 1 hours before tip-off.