MIAMI — The Celtics on Tuesday pushed back against an ESPN report that the players “never got over” the dismissal of coach Ime Udoka.
“No,” guard Marcus Smart said before the Celtics defeated the Heat, 116-99, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. “Regardless of if Ime was here or not, we’re the ones out there playing. We’ve got to go out there and play. Joe [Mazzulla] does a great job of putting us in the right positions. They come up with a game plan. It’s on us. There’s only so much any coach can do for you out there as a player. At some point you’ve got to look at yourself and figure it out.”
Udoka, who guided the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season, was suspended in September for having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate team employee. Mazzulla was named interim coach following Udoka’s suspension, and he took over the role full time after Udoka was fired in February.
After the Celtics were walloped by the Heat in Game 3on Sunday, Mazzulla attempted to shoulder the blame during his postgame news conference.
“It’s a group effort from our front office to everybody,” forward Jaylen Brown said. “Everybody’s in this together. Joe doesn’t need to fall on his sword for anybody.”
Brown entered Game 4 shooting just 37.7 percent from the field in the series. He was 2 for 20 from the 3-point line with 9 turnovers and 10 assists, a bad stretch at a bad time for the recent All-NBA selection,
Before the game, Brown acknowledged that the Heat’s defensive schemes have posed some challenges for him.
“Miami does a good job switching back and forth between zone and man and not trying to let me go to the basket like I want to do,” he said. “Struggled a little bit trying to find an easy one and get going.”
Brown went 7 for 16 from the field, 1 for 5 on 3-pointers, and finished with 17 points Tuesday night.
Heat forward Jimmy Butler was fined $25,000 by the NBA for failing to take part in the news conference following his team’s Game 3 romp … Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that guard Tyler Herro, who has been sidelined since breaking his hand in the opening-round win over the Bucks, had his brace removed and has started shooting. But there is no timetable for his return.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.