Ime Udoka’s message for the Celtics turned the tide in Game 3


“Aaaaaand we have our coaching moment of the year.”

Ime Udoka reportedly ignited a fire among the Celtics with a question in their Game 3 win. Elsa/Getty Images

The Celtics looked comfortable for much of the first half of Game 3 in the NBA Finals. In fact, they might have looked a little too comfortable.

After taking an 18-point lead about halfway through the second quarter, the Celtics saw their lead cut in half in less than two minutes. The Warriors’ final result on the run came when Steph Curry made a 3-pointer in transition from a miss by Marcus Smart in what was the Celtics’ eighth turnover of the first half.

Turnovers have been killing the Celtics all postseason and they know it. Going into Game 3, they were 0-5 (which they were on track to by this point in Game 3) in games where they had committed 16 or more turnovers, compared to 13-2 in playoff Games in which they committed 15 or fewer turnovers.’s Steve Bulpett, who has been covering the Celtics for decades, shared that Celtics coach Ime Udoka asked his team a simple question during one of the timeouts triggered by the team’s Game 3 turnover problems.

“Ime Udoka may have saved the Celtics with a key question during a time out after his team made some poor turnovers,” Bulpett tweeted after Game 3. “According to a source, Udoka stepped into the group and said, ‘You guys stop playing like [expletive]?’

“Aaaaaand we have our coaching moment of the year.”

Bulpett didn’t specify during what timeout Udoka said exactly that, but that second-quarter timeout was the only one he called right after a turnover.

As Bulpett mentioned, Udoka’s message to his team seemed to have worked. That smart turnover was the Celtics’ last at halftime, allowing Boston to hold a 68-56 lead at halftime.

The Celtics committed three turnovers in the third quarter, resulting in three points for the Warriors as part of their 33-point quarter that briefly saw Golden State lead by a point.

But Boston controlled the ball in the fourth quarter and only made a turnover in the last frame. Golden State’s inability to transition into the transition by forcing turnovers was a big reason they scored just 11 points in the final quarter and why Boston clinched a 116-100 win in Game 3.

Udoka shared what he thought was the difference between the Celtics’ offense in Game 3 and Game 2.

“Offensively, it was really about keeping your composure and not getting accelerated,” said Udoka. “I felt like we weren’t our best in the last game to attack the perimeter and find our valves. Our distance was much better tonight. Guys who are patient and find the lanes and get to the basket. Second chance points and offensive rebounds were big for us.”

Jayson Tatum had a good night in terms of ball control. He had nine assists on two turnovers, the second coming late in the game.

Tatum shared what he and the team saw in the film after Game 2 and how they applied it to Game 3.

“We had a lot of turnovers in the last game when these guys slowed down and made it big again,” said Tatum. “I think I’ll just watch movies and see where there’s open space and make sure we get to those so the guys can see kick-outs and stuff like that.”

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