Celtics Ready for ECF Opener After One-Day Turnaround
The Boston Celtics had barely any time to digest their thrilling Game 7 win over the Milwaukee Bucks before turning their attention to their Eastern Conference Finals opponent, the Miami Heat.
Boston was given just one day of preparation between Sunday’s second-round series finale and Tuesday’s third-round series-opener. While a quick turnaround isn’t ideal from a rest standpoint, the Celtics are viewing it as an opportunity to keep their momentum rolling against a Heat team that has been off since Thursday.
“You can look at it two ways,” head coach Ime Udoka said of the quick turnaround after Tuesday morning’s shootaround in Miami. “We didn’t get a ton of rest, as opposed to Miami, who had a few days off. But we’re riding some momentum and staying sharp and there’s benefits to that as well. Miami got [four] days off, but as far as what we did against Milwaukee, some carryover could be good.”
Udoka’s team found itself in an opposite situation between Rounds 1 and 2, as it had five days off to prepare for the Bucks after its sweep of the Brooklyn Nets. However, all of that time off didn’t pay off right away, as the C’s lost Game 1 to Milwaukee before coming back to win the series.
Despite having such short notice this time around, the Celtics feel as prepared as they could possibly be after having the greatest success of any Heat opponent this season. Boston won two out of three matchups during the regular season while logging a league-best plus-39 against Miami.
The first two games were won by the Celtics in blowout fashion with a 95-78 victory on Nov. 4 in Miami and a 122 -92 win on Jan. 22 in Boston. The Heat won the most recent battle on March 30 with a 106-98 victory at TD Garden.
“We know the group well enough,” Udoka said. “We had a little less preparation time as opposed to the other series with a week off for the play-in and the sweep. But we know them well, what they’re about. We’ve played them recently in the season and for us, it’s good to jump right into it, honestly. The thing we talked about is not being caught off guard the way we were a little bit against Milwaukee, coming from Brooklyn. The physicality was a little different. Knowing what Miami is all about, how they’re defending and how they’re playing, and not being caught off guard.”
To Udoka’s point, Miami has had the second-best defense in the postseason behind only Milwaukee. Much like the last series, he’s expecting this one to be another bruising battle, so his Celtics should be prepared for such a team.
"A lot of similarities, honestly, with their physicality,” Udoka said of Miami’s defensive impact. “Off-ball, they don't switch as much (as the Bucks). Some of our actions that worked well against Milwaukee to get some movement and keep specific matchups and then they do protect certain guys as well. Same thing Milwaukee did, they had a switching group. It's a group that hedged and did some tricky things. So they do the same thing, as far as that to try to protect certain guys and keep certain guys, (Jimmy) Butler, (P.J.) Tucker, on certain guys. We're prepared for that. They mix in a lot of zone, some traps out of timeouts, so gotta be ready for all that."
Although they could have benefited from an extra day or two of rest, the Celtics feel prepared enough and are just thrilled to still be playing at this stage of the season.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Al Horford said, “to be in this position and have this opportunity in front of us."