Doc Rivers acknowledges that the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are still the scariest teams from the East. His team has to be next in line. Since the All-Star break late in February, the Celtics have gone 19-7, they’ve won nine of their last 11 games, and have seen a resurgence in veteran center Kevin Garnett.
To add to the list of feats this past week, they pulled off back-to-back victories that Rivers thought were unthinkable. He says his team went to Miami believing it could win, but he knew they would have to steal one back home the very next night against a rested Atlanta team. They did just that and enter the home stretch of the season as hot as anyone.
Doc Rivers joined WEEI in Boston with Dennis and Callahan to discuss why his team is surging after the break, his team stacking up against other playoff teams, Garnett’s resurgence, managing minutes, the back-to-back victories on short rests and a flight, the attitude of his team, its confidence against Miami and whether the Celtics can win it all.
What in the world has been going on with your team since the All-Star break?:
“We’re just playing better. I think a lot of factors. I think moving Kevin to the five obviously has helped. I think Brandon being at the four, that combination has stretched the floor for Rondo and Paul … and everyone else. But overall I just think our team just came together. It took time. I think people forgot we’ve got seven new players on our team. When you don’t have a long camp, a shortened season where you have a lot of games and very few practices, it just takes time.”
Do you think your team is at the top of the list of those that nobody wants to see in the playoffs?:
“Well, if I’m the Heat, I’d probably say the Bulls, and if I’m the Bulls, I’d probably say the Heat. And then, after that, hopefully it’s us. But I don’t think they’re sitting around worrying about us yet and we’re probably not worried about them, either.”
Did you ever imagine that Kevin Garnett would be this spry and this good?:
“I didn’t know. Early on, I was worried about his conditioning — when we first started the season, him and Paul. But the way he’s playing now and with the spirit he’s playing with has just been sensational. It’s almost a rebirth. It’s fun to watch. … He’s been a good player over the last couple years, he just hasn’t had the energy and the life he has now. I do think that this short minutes has helped him, playing him in five-minute stretches. That has helped him because he knows when he’s on the floor, he’s going to go as hard as he can and play like that, then come out.”
Does third place in the East mean enough to keep the gas pedal pressed all the way down or do you think about resting guys?:
“It does not. Trying to stay out of the 7 or 8 spot is the key. If we can get home court, that would be nice. But for us, the key is health. I’d give up all those for a healthy team and that’s all we want. We want to be healthy going into the playoffs, rested and playing well.”
On an overtime victory over Atlanta Wednesday night, coming off a big victory at Miami on Tuesday:
“I thought it was the best win we’ve had all year. I was very concerned going into the game. You don’t know until you show up to the arena, how your guys are going to look. … After I talked to the team before the game and we did our prep work, I walked in with the coaches and said, ‘We’re just going to have to somehow steal this game because our guys are exhausted.’”
On the attitude and resolve of his team:
“This team, and I kept saying it when we were not winning games, that I love the resolve of our team. I didn’t know how well we could play. You’ve been in different locker rooms and you’ve been in them where you just feel that the team has something. I don’t know what that something is, still, I just know that they have a tough demeanor about them, that they’re fighters, and you can see that in them.”
When you go into Miami, do you think that maybe you’ll steal a game or do you walk in with confidence?:
“We have great confidence. I don’t know why, it’s just our team. We believe we can play against anybody. Does that mean we can beat them in a series or any of that? We believe that, but we don’t know that. We’re playing well, we’re a confident group and I just loved the situation we were in going into that game because you knew that they were going to come after you. And it was great to see our team in that situation.”
Can the Celtics win it all this year?:
“I don’t know. I think we can. I’ve said that before. I don’t do the prediction business, but it’s going to be one series, one game at a time for us. When we play with great rhythm, the way we’ve been playing, we can beat anybody. Can we do that four times in a series? I think that’ll be something we have to find out.”