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NBA

Why Celtics coach isn’t worried about the experience gap

The Boston Celtics are heading to the NBA Finals to take on the Golden State Warriors, looking for their first title since 2008.

Jennifer Bubel
Update:

Beating the Golden State Warriors was an impossible feat for the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and the Dallas Mavericks. For the Boston Celtics, beating the Warriors won’t be an easy feat either. But that’s what they’ll try to do, starting with Game 1 in San Francisco on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.

Between 2015-2019, the Warriors won three championships in five consecutive finals. They have collected three titles with veteran players Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have a much less experienced team when it comes to the NBA finals. Despite the gap in experience, Celtics coach Ime Udoka is not concerned in the least.

“I think in general we have a very mature group, especially with our younger guys,” said Udoka. “Al [Horford] and Marcus [Smart] and our veterans are always very level-headed and keeping us in line.”

Indeed, the Celtics have a lot of talent on their team, even if they have less experience in the finals. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier were on the Celtics team that lost to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals four years ago. They’ve only grown since then.

“I’m not really worried about Jayson, Jaylen, and the younger guys that haven’t been on the stage,” said Udoka. “They got to the Eastern Conference finals multiple times and took that step.”

In the time leading up to Game 1, the Celtics could focus on resting and bettering players Robert Williams III and Marcus Smart. Williams has been struggling with pain in his left knee throughout the playoffs, and Smart has been dealing with pains on his right quad, ankle, and foot. Williams had to miss three games in the series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“We have this time that we’ll take advantage of, as far as rest and preparation, and be ready to go by Game 1,” said Udoka.

Though none of the players on the Celtics’ roster has ever made it to the NBA Finals, Udoka himself has been, twice, when he was the assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. The Celtics did, however, impressively turn their season around to finish as the no. 2 seed in the East, and then manage to play one of the most challenging playoff paths to make it to the final.

“We know what we’re here to play for, and I don’t think any of our guys are awed or intimidated by the moment at all. We understand what it is,” said Udoka. “We know the opponent in front of us. And for us, as always, this year it’s been business as usual. Going on the road, not fazed by that at all. We’re really looking forward to it.”

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