Boston Celtics: How Ime Udoka has orchestrated the C’s recent hot streak

Ime Udoka head coach of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
Ime Udoka head coach of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics, despite losing their final game before the All-Star break to the Detroit Pistons, are still on a roll. Any concerns regarding a potential dip in performance after the layoff were immediately erased with a commanding 129-106 win over the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets last night.

Boston, who have now won 10 of their last 11 games, are continuing their rise up the Eastern Conference standings. Not long ago, they were all the way back in 11th place, which wouldn’t even earn them a spot in the Play-In Tournament. Now they have worked themselves all the way up to sixth place, which would currently see them avoid the Play-In entirely.

And as good as that run has been, the Boston Celtics have a good chance to keep moving up the standings over the next few days, as they have a weekend back-to-back against the Pistons and Indiana Pacers, two teams they should be able to beat. With a solid stretch run, the C’s could potentially contend for one of the top three seeds in the East.

It’s a miraculous turnaround considering where things stood just a month or so ago, and while the players deserve credit for their improved play, first year head coach Ime Udoka deserves some praise as well. In fact, without him, this stretch of basketball probably doesn’t happen. Much like the team themselves, Udoka started the season off slowly, but as the results have started to go his way, many fans are beginning to see Udoka’s handprints all over the Celtics recent hot streak.

The Boston Celtics have finally bought into Ime Udoka’s system

I’ll admit for the first half of the season, I was not Udoka’s biggest fan. His rotations were horrid, his gameplans seemed to not take into account the opponent his team was facing, and many of his in-game decisions displayed an utter lack of basketball IQ. It was a sluggish start, but there were signs that Udoka was getting through to the team.

For starters, the team’s defense has been superb all season long, and it’s been a catalyst for their latest run. Their defensive rating is second in the league behind only the Golden State Warriors, but if they keep playing the way they have been lately, there’s no doubt they will surpass the vaunted Warriors shortly. Boston has consistently stifled opponents all season long defensively, but their offensive struggles held them back early on in the season.

Those struggles have largely been eradicated thanks to Udoka’s improved gameplans. The offense is running smoothly as ever thanks to a number of key developments, such as Marcus Smart‘s emergence as a true playmaker or Jayson Tatum finally figuring out how to knockdown his jumpers again. While these may look like things the players have done on their own without Udoka’s help on the surface, a closer look says otherwise.

Over the past month or two, Udoka has done what former head coach and current President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens failed to do last season; he got the locker room to buy into his system. It’s not a coincidence that the defense has been air-tight or the ball has been flying all over the court on offense. That’s what Udoka wanted to happen, and although it took some time to come to fruition, it’s finally happening on a nightly basis.

Udoka’s work on the offensive side of the ball is truly impressive. For the past year and a half, it seemed like this team was destined to always get killed by their isolation habits. Guys like Tatum, Smart, and Jaylen Brown would spend too much time hunting for their own shots and not looking for the best shot for the team. The ball rarely moved, and defenses quickly figured out how to slow it down.

Those concerns are a thing of the past now. Led by Smart, the Boston Celtics offense has become pass happy lately, and it’s no surprise it’s coinciding with their best basketball of the season. Open guys are getting found, shots are getting split up among everyone, and most importantly, the ball is finding the bottom of the bucket.

Opposing defenses have become so accustomed to locking in on Tatum and Brown and going from there, but they are quickly figuring out you can’t do that anymore. Now that the ball is moving, every player that takes the court alongside them is a threat. You can’t leave anyone that’s part of the rotation open anymore because they have proven that they will make you pay.

Speaking of the rotation, Udoka has finally settled in on a consistent rotation, which has done wonders for the team as a whole. Too many bench players were getting inconsistent minutes, which led to inconsistent results on the court. Now that he’s settled in on what is pretty much an eight or nine man rotation at this point, Udoka knows what he wants, and so do his players.

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Keeping this up throughout the rest of the season is vital to Boston’s success. The East is wide open right now, and there’s a chance Boston could somehow turn this season into a success story if they keep doing what they have been doing recently. Even if they somehow end up struggling the rest of the way, Boston Celtics fans can rest assured knowing they are in good hands with Udoka leading the charge moving forward.