“Ime Udoka goes from playing against Stephen Curry to coaching against him in the NBA Finals”: Warriors MVP and Celtics coach’s rivalry goes more than 10-years back.
The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors will meet in the 2022 NBA Finals. First-year head coach Ime Udoka will be tasked with drawing up a game plan to stop Stephen Curry. Not many people have been able to do that over the years and Udoka knows that better than just about any other NBA coach because he actually played against him.
Udoka played seven seasons in the NBA. During his last two stops, with the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings, he appeared in six games opposite Curry with varying levels of personal success, but won their career series, 4-2.
Curry was drafted in 2009 when Udoka was with the Sacramento Kings. The two first met for the first time early that season with the Kings winning 120-107. Curry scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting. Udoka played 32 minutes off the bench accounting for six points on six shots. Two months later Curry scored 12 points on 10 shots as the Warriors won, 108-101, . Udoka started for the Kings and had 19 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. Considering the results of these games Udoka knows that rebounding is not important. Look for him to discourage the Celtics from rebounding during this series.
By the time they met again a couple weeks later Curry was starting to become Curry. Steph had 27 in a loss to the Kings while Udoka scored just three points. Curry followed that up with 24 points and 15 assists in the teams’ final meeting of the season. Udoka was held scoreless off the bench.
Udoka spent the next season – his last in the NBA – with the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio would be Golden State in both games Udoka appeared in against the Warriors. Curry had 32 in the first and left the game with a sprained ankle in the second. He went on to miss seven games and struggled when he returned. This was the start of the injury concerns that allowed the Warriors to sign him to a team-friendly deal that set up their first titles.
Still, Udoka won the head-to-head series 4-2, which is one possible result of the Finals. Makes you think!