Smart gives Celtics coach Ime Udoka a shoutout after impressive milestone

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It's impossible to discuss the top candidates for the NBA's Coach of the Year Award and not spend considerable time looking at the case for Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka.

After a disappointing start to the 2021-22 season, the rookie head coach challenged his players and they ultimately responded -- in a huge way.

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Boston improved drastically at both ends of the floor, but particularly on defense, since the calendar turned to 2022. The Celtics finished with the No. 1 defensive rating and led the league in opponent field goal percentage, opponent 3-point percentage and opponent 2-point percentage. 

Udoka also was the only one of five rookie head coaches this season to win 50 or more games as the Celtics earned a 51-31 record. 

Celtics guard Marcus Smart couldn't resist giving his coach a shoutout Monday on Twitter after he achieved a few impressive milestones during the regular season.

Udoka has plenty of competition for Coach of the Year, and he's not the favorite for oddsmakers. Monty Williams tops that list after leading the Phoenix Suns to a league-best 64-18 record -- eight wins better than any other team. Taylor Jenkins of the Grizzlies is another top candidate after Memphis exceeded all expectations to finish as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

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Even if Udoka doesn't win, it won't take away from an excellent performance in his first season in Boston and as an NBA head coach. The Celtics, thanks to Udoka, also will have the coaching advantage in just about every series in the playoffs, with a few exceptions of course (like Erik Spoelstra in Miami).

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