Miami, May 20: Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka believes his side responded well to being "punked" by the Miami Heat, claiming a 127-102 win in Game 2 of their playoff series on Thursday.
A 39-14 third quarter in the Heat's favour effectively decided Game 1 as the Celtics collapsed on the road, but bounced back, cutting down turnovers and putting four quarters together to split the first two games in Miami.
Marcus Smart and Al Horford's returns to the line-up were critical for the Celtics as they claimed home-court advantage against the Eastern Conference's first seed, but it was a collective effort with 28 assists off 43 made field goals.
Udoka praised his side's mental toughness in responding against a side that came at them in the opening game of the series.
"I think we were upset with how that third quarter went, specifically how we got out-toughed," Udoka said post-match. "Wasn't a lot of schemes or defensive or offensive changes, they just came at us and kind of punked us in that third quarter.
"We looked the other three quarters and how well we had done in winning those quarters, and knew if we just matched their physicality, we could be better. It kind of reminded us of Milwaukee a little bit – the first game – and didn't want to get caught off-guard again.
"I think our guys have bounced back really well all year, especially the second half of the year. Haven't lost two games in a row in a while, and obviously having Marcus and Al back gave us a little boost as well."
Smart was an important figure in his return from a foot injury, filling the stats sheet and finishing with 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals.
Horford provided a little bit of everything meanwhile, ending the game with 10 points, three assists and rebounds as well as a steal and a block.
Udoka commended the returning duo, allowing the team to capitalise on positive aspects from the first game.
"It was great to have the vets back, obviously," he said. "A calming presence there. We didn't get off to our best start, we were a little slow to start but we fought right back into it.
"After, I guess, the first five or six minutes we held them down scoring-wise, but it was a good overall effort. I felt we didn't play as poorly as the last game showed.
"Like I said, we won three quarters and had a very bad third quarter, it was hard to overcome but we saw a lot of positives and areas we could attack."