Moments after the Boston Celtics completed a sweep and kicked the Brooklyn Nets out of the playoffs, head coach Ime Udoka declared that he and his team weren't scared of anybody and weren't running away from anyone. Udoka has proven to walk his talk, and it shows with the confidence and sharpness of the Celtics' performance so far in the playoffs.
The franchise went from losing to the Nets in the first round last season to now looking like the best team to make it out of the Eastern Conference, all thanks to how Udoka has changed the culture in Boston. The first-time head coach implemented the perfect defensive and offensive scheme while enforcing discipline.
Udoka deserves the most credit
When Udoka took over Brad Steven's seat as the Celtics' head coach, he said in his first press conference that he wanted to see move ball movement this season because the Celtics' ranked 27th in assists last year. True to his words, the Celtics' climbed to 14th in this season's assists average and had the ninth-best offensive rating (113.6) in the regular season.
Udoka didn't have the most perfect start with the Celtics. The home crowd booed him and the team in their first game while the players called for a "players-only" meeting before their eight games of the season. But as the season progressed, the Celtics got past all their adversity and developed an identity where Udoka specializes best — on defense.
The Celtics' defense, which ranked number one in the regular season, propelled them to the second seed of the Eastern Conference. This switchable scheme defense of Udoka can't be picked on by their opponents just because there's no single player on the floor that can be bullied.
The Celtics also thrive on their perimeter defenders and have the wing depth to give their opponents problems with their length, strength, and tenacity.
This wouldn't be possible without Udoka's principles. From being the assistant of Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs and Steve Nash in Brooklyn, Udoka has now built his own contending squad with the Boston Celtics.
A culture changer
When Udoka arrived in Boston, he said that he would hold players accountable and call them out no matter who they were. He's done that throughout the season with the likes of Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown.
Unlike during Steven's time, Udoka does the old classic Phil Jackson trick where he gets his player's attention by calling them out during his media interviews.
Udoka's disciplinarian approach worked out exceptionally well. The Celtics' chemistry has arguably been the best so far in the postseason. Their offense and defensive rotations are so pristine that their discipline on both ends has been their biggest weapon. It'll only be a matter of time before they peak if that hasn't happened already.
Led by Udoka, the Celtics are looking more like title contenders as each game passes.