By Rich Levine
WALTHAM The Celtics had a 3-1 advantage in their regular season sereis with the Heat, but heading into the Eastern Conference semifinals, that means nothing.
At least according to Doc Rivers.
During the regular season, you dont know how your teams playing, Rivers said before Thursdays practice in Waltham. You dont know if theyre injured. You dont know if theyre tired form travel the regular season is so overplayed. It really is.
But not entirely. Rivers admits that while the Celtics record against Miami wont give them any false confidence, there are certain aspects of those four games that will help Boston in its search for four more wins. In the end, its not the fact that they won three out of four games, but that over those games, they were able to gain a feel for how Miami plays, how they specifically match-up with the Celtics, and what approach and strategy will best equip the Cs to come out on top.
There are things you can get out of it, Rivers said, but for the most part, what you get out of the regular season is that you see a style of play. How they play you, how you play them, and then you put it on the floor.
One issue, of course and as always, is how the Heat will defend Rajon Rondo. In the past, Miami implemented the same defense as many of Bostons other rivals, essentially using either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to play off Rondo (giving him the jump shot) while using the extra space to wreak havoc elsewhere.
I anticipate that theyre going to go big with the Lebron, Wade and James Jones lineup, Rivers said. Well see one of those guys guarding Rondo, so that means one of them wont be guarding Ray or Paul. So were good with that.
Another is the bench play. Over the course of the season, both Miami and Boston have had issues with the bench. The Celtics criticism didnt come until injuries started to hit; Miamis dealt with it since day one. But regardless of whose bench is most ready when the ball goes up on Sunday, Doc doesnt anticipate it being a difference maker.
They have three pretty good guys, Rivers said, and theyre going to play 40 minutes so I dont think anybody has that big of a bench problem in the playoffs. They have enough guys.
Hes says the same is true for the Celtics. Sure, they need more from Glen Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West, but it will still come down to the starters. And when it comes down to that, Rivers always feels confident in his team and all theyve built and accomplished over the last four seasons.
The one advantage is that weve been together, he said. When you have a great player passing up an average shot to give it to another great player with a great shot. It shows that your guys trust each other.
That trust is something that was lost a little on the Celtics down the stretch in the regular season, and something that the Heat struggled to grasp for the better part of the last six months. But as this next round of the playoffs kicks off, Rivers believes that both teams are in a better position, and ready to roll in the second round.
They (got better), and we are getting better, he said. We changed so we had to take a step backwards and now were building back up. I think were both better.