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Boston coach Ime Udoka: Celtics lack leadership, mental toughness

Celtics coach Ime Udoka at Boston Celtics v New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 06: Ime Udoka, Head coach of the Boston Celtics looks on against the New York Knicks during their game at Madison Square Garden on January 06, 2022 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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The Celtics – who’d already blown three 19-point leads this season – one-upped themselves by blowing a 25-point lead (including a 20-point second-half lead) to the Knicks yesterday.

If you thought New York forward Julius Randle was bitter after the game, listen to Boston coach Ime Udoka.

NBC Sports Boston:

Four Boston starters have made multiple Eastern Conference finals since 2015: Al Horford (three), Marcus Smart (three), Jaylen Brown (three) and Jayson Tatum (two). Tatum, Brown and Smart led the Celtics to the conference finals just two years ago.

What has Udoka won as a head coach?

First-time head coaches often face trouble when being so harsh publicly. It’s one thing when Gregg Popovich – whom Udoka learned under with the Spurs – calls out his players in the media. Popovich has proven he can help players win at the highest level. Udoka has no such track record.

That doesn’t make Udoka wrong. These Celtics look fractured and have for a while. It’s easy to see how that’d translate to a lack of cohesion as games get away from them.

But Udoka isn’t blameless. His relatively tight rotation on the second game of a back-to-back probably contributed to Boston’s collapse. He too often uses lineups short on shooting/spacing, too.

That said, Udoka must work with the roster given to him. The Celtics aren’t overflowing with depth, especially outside shooters.

Boston’s problems are multi-faceted.

Which is why the Celtics’ most-prominent players might not appreciate Udoka pointing the finger so directly at them.