KEY POINTS

  • The Celtics bounced back in a big way in Game 2 to tie the series with the Heat at one game apiece
  • Marcus Smart and Al Horford are heavily complimented by head coach Ime Udoka
  • Jimmy Butler was the Heat's best performer with 29 points

The Boston Celtics was sorely missing the services of veterans Al Horford and Marcus Smart in their disappointing loss in Game 1 to the Miami Heat, and head coach Ime Udoka is absolutely thankful to have them back on the court.

Udoka was more than happy to talk about the shot of energy and poise that the pair brought with them as the Celtics stormed back to even the series at one apiece after a statement victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“It’s great to have the vets back, obviously. [They are a] calming presence out there. After the first five or six minutes, we held them down scoring-wise. But overall, it was a good overall effort to bounce back. I felt we didn’t play as poorly as last game showed,” Udoka said during the postgame interviews.

Though number one option Jayson Tatum led the team in scoring with 27 points, it was Smart and Horford’s contributions that helped the team secure the victory.

Smart--the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year--had 24 points on 36.4% field goal shooting with five made three-pointers, three steals, and 12 assists to net a double-double, while Horford pitched in 10 points plus three boards, one steal and one block.

The Celtics were firing on all cylinders tonight with both veteran players available to play, and Udoka cited that his team was more than ready to fire back at the Heat going into Game 2.

“I think we were upset with how that third quarter [in Game 1] went… It kind of reminded us of Milwaukee, the first game, a little bit and didn’t want to get caught off guard again,” the coach shared.

Smart also received praise from his head coach for his heads-up plays and perennially high motor.

“As always, he sets the tone. He’s the Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. … He brings the physicality every night, kind of gets everybody in line, and adding Al [Horford] back there is another versatile guy,” Udoka would go on to explain of their impact.

With regards to the Heat, Jimmy Butler was once again their best player after dropping 29 points on his own and was supported by 14-point performances from guards Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladipo.

However, Adebayo’s impact was only limited to six points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes of action as the Celtics locked down the paint early and often.

“Just that poise. We were under control. We’ve been doing this the longest for this team and we know what it takes. It’s going to take everything. They put a lot of pressure on [Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown], rightfully so, they’ve earned that and we’ve got to come in and help them,” Smart told Lisa Salters directly after the game.

As the series shifts to the famed TD Garden in Boston for Games 3 and 4, the Celtics will have an opportunity to enforce their will further in the series.

Game 3 will be played on Saturday, May 21 with tip-off slated for 8:30 PM.