Following Game 4 Win, C’s Look to End ECF’s Alternating Trend

The level of unpredictability in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals has been off the charts. Neither Boston nor Miami has established any sort of consistent results throughout the first four games, which has led to back-and-forth stretches of dominance unlike any series that we’ve seen in recent memory.

The Heat have dominated in short, powerful bursts, such as their 39-14 third quarter during Game 1 and their 39-18 first quarter during Game 3. Meanwhile, the Celtics have dominated in more drawn-out stretches, which led to blowout wins in Games 2 and 4.

Celtics head coach Ime Udoka finds the back-and-forth, commanding runs to be a “little bit odd,” considering how one would think that the top two teams in the conference would match up at a more consistent level. Though, at the same time, he’s not surprised with how both teams have fought back after being battered for stretches.

“It’s a little bit odd the way that the numbers have been with the blowouts back and forth,” Udoka said Tuesday morning following a 102-82 series-tying win in Game 4. “But the fact that even with those blowouts both teams continue to fight and give themselves a chance to get back in the game. You’ve had some close games, albeit some big leads in the series so far. It’s not surprising. But it’s two teams that are always going to fight and not really beat themselves, give themselves a chance.”

This has been somewhat of a theme in other matchups as well. We’ve seen Golden State and Memphis trade blowout stretches, and Phoenix and Dallas do the same, among other matchups.

Udoka believes the trend has a lot to do with the league’s growing emphasis on offense, specifically in 3-point shooting, which can lead to massive, momentum-swinging runs.

“I would say a big part of it is the scoring nowadays,” Udoka said. “Teams go on crazy runs. Defense, depending on the team, is more of a luxury at times. It’s not always a premium with every team, so a lot of times there’s these shootouts and they can get ugly pretty quickly. But with that being the NBA, long games, guys know they have a chance to get back in it. And so you’ve seen a lot of those so far.

“We try to pride ourselves on being consistent on the defensive end, which always gives us a chance. But like I said, we’ve been having these bad quarters in this series where the lead is stretched and then we fight our way back into it. But I would attribute it to that, more so the 3-point shooting, the streaks that people go on, and kind of the progression of the game offensively for why you’re seeing some of these big leads and these big blowouts.”

Along with the alternating stretches of dominance, the Celtics have been experiencing alternating final results. Going back to Game 4 of the first round against Brooklyn, Boston has alternated wins and losses with the exception of grabbing back-to-back wins to close out the second round against Milwaukee.

While Udoka has been pleased with his team’s ability to bounce back, he hasn’t loved the fact that they’ve also allowed the opposition to bounce back consistently. It’s a trend that they will have to change if they hope to get past Miami, considering how the Heat have won the odd games of this seven-game series.

“We talk about it all the time, responding to wins, not just the losses,” Udoka said. “We were disappointed in Game 3 the way we came out with a chance to do something special back at home. So far in the series, it’s been the team that’s down that has responded well and bounced back, but we kind of have to buck that trend, obviously, with two games left at their place possibly. And so, we want to come out and establish ourselves regardless of the situation we’re in.”

Boston hopes that Game 5 in Miami is when they can finally buck that trend, as it will try to come out with the same type of energy that helped them build an 18-1 lead during Game 4.

“For us, consistency is the thing we’re all looking for,” said Udoka. “We talked about it – not getting caught off guard when they up their aggressiveness and physicality the way we did yesterday and the way they did going into Game 3. And so, for us, consistency, coming out and playing the same regardless of the situation, and not waiting to get down to rally back or be behind in the series.”

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