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Familiarity is not breeding contempt for Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, as his side approaches a pivotal Game 5 on Monday, tied 2-2 against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
For the third consecutive playoff series, the Celtics will come into a Game 5 with the series tied, after the Warriors reclaimed home court advantage on Friday in a 107-97 win.
Stephen Curry had 10 points during the game-ending surge and finished with 43 as Boston’s normally dependable defensive scheme had no answer for the two-time MVP.
The Celtics have demonstrated a knack for responding during these playoffs, where they’re 7-0 following a loss and have twice won on the road when facing elimination - Game 6 of their second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks and Game 7 of their Eastern Conference finals with the Miami Heat.
That familiarity, combined with the resiliency his team has shown throughout its run to this series, has Udoka maintaining a positive outlook with the series now down to a best-of-three affair.
"It could have been an easier road, obviously,” Udoka quipped. "We know we can do it. We’ve done it before.
"I think the narrative gets shifted to Curry and what he’s doing," Udoka said. "But even throughout the game, we had several opportunities, being up five, six, seven, and poor offence or turnovers let them back in the game.
"The difference in the game that we stretched the lead [Game 3] was we took advantage of those opportunities. Against this team, anytime you run some poor offence, turn the ball over, live ball turnovers, let them get out, we know how quickly they can get back in the game."
The Celtics do face another weighty assignment with potentially two more games to be held at San Francisco’s Chase Center, where the Warriors are a near-perfect 10-1 this post-season.
That one defeat did come at the hands of Boston in the series opener, with the Celtics outscoring Golden State 40-16 in the fourth quarter to turn a 12-point deficit into a 120-108 win.
"We know it’s a long series,” Udoka said. “We’ve been battle-tested in two seven-game series in Milwaukee and Miami."
The Celtics are also optimistic regarding center Robert Williams’ availability for Game 5. The All-NBA Defensive second team selection missed the final few minutes of Friday’s loss after landing awkwardly on the surgically repaired left knee, often limiting him during the post-season.
"Feeling good,” Williams said following Sunday’s practice. "A little sore, but on the side of the better days [I’ve had]."