MIAMI - The Celtics are sartorially prepared for the NBA Finals. Coach Doc Rivers had the team pack for Saturday night’s Game 7 against the Heat, and for a possible trip to Oklahoma City.
Though the Celtics are underdogs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, Rivers on Friday defended his response to a question about the team’s plans, which was posed after a 98-79 loss in Game 6 Thursday at TD Garden.
“What else am I going to tell them?’’ Rivers said. “It’s the obvious. We are going, we had to pack. I wasn’t really trying to give them a message. At that point I was just pretty much telling you like it is. We’re all packed. Guys have a lot of luggage, and we’re hoping we can use it.’’
The Celtics squandered 3-2 series leads against the Magic in the conference semifinals in 2009 and against the Lakers in the 2010 Finals.
“I think every game, every series, everything is different,’’ Rivers said. “It’s all individual. I mean, some of our guys obviously were in that game [in 2010]. They were in Game 6 and in Game 7.
“I think it’s different. I thought Game 6 we played a clunker in LA, but we had chances to win. There was no super effort in Game 6 like with LeBron [James on Thursday]. I just think we have to view this as an individual game.’’
Rivers said James had proved his ability to produce in big games with a 45-point, 15-rebound performance in Game 6.
“I said it last year,’’ Rivers said. “He’s a great player. I don’t know what else he can do. He does the right thing. When he makes the right pass and the guy misses the shot, he’s criticized. When he forces a shot in a double-team, he’s criticized. It’s the way it is for him, for whatever reason.
“He’s competitive as heck. He’s one of the most powerful players to ever play the game. And maybe it isn’t enough. I don’t know.’’
Rivers compared criticism of James with that of golfer Tiger Woods.
“Other than that, no one, no athlete that I can ever remember being under the scrutiny - definitely in basketball,’’ Rivers said. “I’ve never seen anyone under the scrutiny that LeBron James is under.’’
In the moment
Asked for the key for players approaching Game 7, Rivers said, “Staying within yourself. Not trying to do too much. Each guy doing their job.
“I think everybody just has to pitch in. But no one has to do more or above what they usually do. If each guy does their job and you get your best team effort, that gives you a chance to win.’’
Share and share alike
The Celtics produced only 14 assists in Game 6, Rivers attributing ineffective offense to the lack of ball movement.
“I think you have to give some of the credit to Miami,’’ he said. “We’ve really actually scored pretty well in this series. Philly series and Atlanta series we struggled more to score than we have in this series.
“But, clearly, for us it’s always the ball movement issue, people movement issue on our part. On their part, I thought they got into it [Thursday] night. They owned our airspace the entire game. I thought they played with more force than us. And they took us out of our stuff. But I always think that’s on us just as much as you have to credit them.
“We feel good. We’re going to watch film today and walk through tomorrow, and we’ll be ready at 8:30. There’s no time now to think about being tired and all that stuff.’’
Game 6 matched the highest television rating for an NBA playoff game on cable since records started being kept in 2003, according to the Associated Press. The ESPN telecast produced a 6.8 rating, the same as Sunday’s Game 4.
The network said Friday that ratings for the series are up 40 percent from last year’s Western Conference finals on ESPN.
In Miami, the game had a 22.0 rating, the highest on cable for an NBA playoff game in the market.