Boston Celtics

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 29: The Boston Celtics celebrates with the Eastern Conference Bob Cousy champions trophy after defeating the Miami Heat in Game Seven to win the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

  • Sunday night, the Celtics locked up their first NBA Finals berth in over a decade. It’s the 22nd time the team will appear in the championship round, although it doesn’t feel as familiar as that number might suggest given the majority of the roster is heading to the game’s biggest stage for the first time.

    On one hand, that’s understandable. This team is still very young, with most of its core under 28 years old. At the same time though, they’ve been an accomplished group in the relatively little time they’ve had together, appearing in three other Eastern Conference Finals series in the previous five years.

    Whatever lens it’s viewed through, the win was an emotional one for the Celtics. After the game, head coach Ime Udoka and the core players were asked about their initial reactions to advancing to the NBA Finals. Here’s what they had to say…

  • Ime Udoka

    MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 29: Head Coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics points against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 29: Head Coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics points against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    “It’s been a long road, obviously, throughout this season. Feels like it was always meant to be this way. Difficult – two Game 7’s in the last two series. Shows what I said about this group, that we fought through a lot of adversity this year. A resilient group….It would be all for naught if we go lay an egg in The Finals. We understand that. Guys were quick to celebrate but quick to flip the page and say ‘we’ve got four more.’ We don’t celebrate Eastern Conference Championships in the Celtics organization. So we all fall in line and appreciate that standard of excellence. We play for championships, we’re here now, and we’ll try to finish the deal.”

  • Jayson Tatum

    May 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket against Miami Heat guard Max Strus (31) and forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the second half of game seven of the 2022 eastern conference finals at FTX Arena. Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

    May 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket against Miami Heat guard Max Strus (31) and forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the second half of game seven of the 2022 eastern conference finals at FTX Arena. Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

    “It feels great, honestly. Some of those guys have been in the Eastern Conference Finals four times. This was my third time. Obviously we know we want to win a championship, right? But to get over this hump, in the fashion that we did it – we took the toughest route possible – and then to win a Game 7 to go to the championship on the road, it’s special…This wasn’t the goal all season, this was just a step in getting where we want to get to. Obviously this a big accomplishment – we haven’t been to the championship yet. I think it’s alright to be proud of ourselves today and enjoy this. We’re not satisfied, we know we’ve still got a long way to go, but I think it’s alright to enjoy this tonight and be happy. It’s hard, it’s not easy – clearly, this is my first time getting to a championship – it is not easy, and we know we have a tough task ahead. They’ve been there many a times, they’ve won many a times, so, I’m looking forward to it.”

    On winning the Larry Bird Eastern Conference MVP trophy: “It’s an honor. It still doesn’t even seem real right now. I’m just extremely happy and grateful for all of this. Regardless of how long I’ve been in the league, I’m not too far removed from when I was in high school and when I was dreaming about moments like this. So I still feel like a kid sometimes, that I’m really, truly living out my dream…It still hasn’t sunken in yet. I’m going to take it home, show Deuce tomorrow, and enjoy it.”

  • Jaylen Brown

    MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 29: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics dribbles against Max Strus #31 of the Miami Heat during the first quarter in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 29: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics dribbles against Max Strus #31 of the Miami Heat during the first quarter in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    “This is a great opportunity. This is what – all the work that you put in your whole life for, is to be in this moments. To get to play in The Finals, to get to represent not just the organization but your family, your community, your extended community, it doesn’t get much better than that. So we’ve got to embrace it, but also embrace the challenge because we’re playing a team that’s been there and one that before. If we expect to win, we’ve got to come with our ‘A’ game.”

  • Marcus Smart

    May 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) drives to the basket against the Miami Heat during the second half of game seven of the 2022 eastern conference finals at FTX Arena. Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

    May 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) drives to the basket against the Miami Heat during the second half of game seven of the 2022 eastern conference finals at FTX Arena. Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

    “Finally. To be able to get over that hump and have a chance to make it to the NBA Finals. This is every athlete’s dream, is to get to that final stage and to have an opportunity. I’ve been here, four years in the Eastern Conference Finals and I’ve been sent home every year after. So it feels really good. And it feels really good for Jayson and Jaylen. We’ve been together for the longest – and even Al [Horford], man. Al – just happy for him. He played all these games, he works his tail off. He deserves it more than any of us. So, it was just a great feeling…We’ve been through a lot. Literally blood, sweat, and tears. Every year we’ve been in this situation, and we’ve had to sit there and look at ourselves in the mirror, and it had to hurt and it did. For us, we wanted to come out here and make sure that didn’t happen again. And we did it. All the years we’ve been through, early on in the season, all the things we went through early on, the adversity, really allowed us to come here in a Game 7 and do what we’ve done. I think our road record is better than our home record and that just shows the resilience we have – that we can come into somebody’s building and tear it up. That’s what it’s all about, man. This core group of guys, the guys that’s on the bench, this coaching staff, this whole organization, they trusted us and they allowed us to fix it and work it out. And we’ve grown from us, and it’s definitely helped us in the long run.”

  • Al Horford

    May 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard Max Strus (31) and Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) and guard Jaylen Brown (7) position for a rebound during the first half of game seven of the 2022 eastern conference finals at FTX Arena. Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

    May 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard Max Strus (31) and Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) and guard Jaylen Brown (7) position for a rebound during the first half of game seven of the 2022 eastern conference finals at FTX Arena. Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

    “I just didn’t know how to act. I’m out there just caught up, excited. A lot of hard work. I’ve been a part of a lot of great teams. A lot of great teammates. I’m so proud of this group, these guys. I’ve seen JB [Jaylen Brown] some in the league and take steps, take levels. I’ve seen JT [Jayson Tatum], the same thing. I’ve seen Smart grow. For me, it’s just special to be with them and being able to help them and be a part of this. So I’m really grateful to be in this position.