Former D’Tigers forward Ime Udoka has taken the Boston Celtics to the NBA finals for the first time in 12 years as they overcame a determined Miami Heat 100-96 in game-seven win.
Boston failed in their last five play-off runs and almost did so again as Jimmy Butler missed a late three-point attempt which would have given Miami the lead.
But Udoka helped them secure victory and will now face Golden State Warriors in the finals with game one to hold in San Francisco on Thursday.
The Celtics led by 17 at one point in the second quarter but a fourth-quarter flurry helped Miami repeatedly reduce the advantage.
After Butler’s missed three-pointer, Boston’s Marcus Smart – who had 24 points and nine rebounds in total – made two free throws to seal the long-awaited finals place.
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Speaking after the win, Udoka said:”This is a typical Celtics win.
“We fought through a lot of adversity this year. We’re a resilient group and tonight seemed to signify our season. We can’t ever seem to shut the door and have to grind it out.”
Udoka’s father, who was of Nigerian descent, died in 2006, which qualified Udoka for Nigerian citizenship.
His older sister, Mfon, played in the WNBA. His mother, who died in late 2011, was an American from Illinois.
Udoka was a player on the Nigerian national team. At the 2006 FIBA World Championships, Udoka led Nigeria in scoring, assists, and steals.
Udoka also played for Nigeria in the 2005 and 2011 FIBA Africa Championships, winning a bronze medal in both tournaments.
He has served as an assistant coach for USA Basketball under his Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich.
His coaching role on the 2019 FIBA World Cup team helped him build relationships with Celtics players Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart, who advocated for his hiring as the new Boston head coach.
Udoka also coached for Team USA under Popovich at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, along with Celtics assistant Will Hardy.
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