Celtics coach Doc Rivers took the microphone at the end of practice Sunday at TD Garden and led a crowd of season ticket-holders in a “Beat the Heat” chant.
The Celtics recently concluded the preseason with a 3-5 record but their regular-season opener in Miami Tuesday will revive memories of the postseason.
“It was really bitter the way the season ended last year,” captain Paul Pierce said of Miami’s 101-88 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. “We know it’s going to be like a playoff, you’ve got two rivals going out there — expect it to be like a playoff atmosphere.
“Game 7 in Miami, we had two opportunities to advance to the NBA Finals – that’s still in the back of our minds. So, we’re going to go down there and really try to make a statement.”
The Heat will receive championship rings in a pregame ceremony.
“I’ll be saying a prayer in the back,” Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said of where he plans to be during the pregame. “It’s definitely exciting — every game is exciting. You don’t want to just get up for certain things, but with the first game in Miami, they’ll be getting their rings, and we’ll be fired up.
“It’s one game, it’s not Game 7. We want to start the season out right with a win, it’s nothing more. This isn’t the championship, it’s one game — no different than the last couple years.
“There will be a lot of hype, anticipation, so we have to stay focused, do what we do, execute offensively, communicate, and win the game.”
Only four Celtics who played in Game 7 are with the team for this contest. But newcomer Jason Terry is getting into the spirit.
“I’ll never forget ’05-06,” Terry said, referring to when his Mavericks lost to the Heat. “I should be a two-time champion right now, but it wasn’t so. But I’ll never forget that feeling walking off that court after Game 6 in Dallas, when confetti dropped on our heads.
“I’d like to remember winning the championship but what sticks in my head is when we lost. And I’ve got to believe it’s a feeling similar to what Boston felt in Game 7 last year. So I come right into the rivalry, ready for it. Game No. 1, whether Miami or someone else, it’s basketball and it kicks off the season.
“A lot of times, you see your team on paper, you say, OK, we might have a chance. We got here in September, earlier than usual, went to Europe, and up to our last practice today — we’re legit and we’re for real. To a man, we’re a tough team, and I think our bench is deep, our starting lineup is a beast. These are champions, these guys know what they want, and our ultimate goal is to win the championship.”
Rivers recalled how the Celtics responded after winning the 2008 title.
“You’re worried as a coach, about distractions, and can you play?” Rivers said. “We played extremely well when we got our ring — we beat Cleveland in front of LeBron [James]. So, I think this is LeBron’s payback, he gets a ring in front of us. It’s amazing how things turn around. On the other side, to us, it’s just waiting longer to play, that’s all it is.”
Motivation should be Rivers’s easiest task in preparing for the game.
“If I have to use that, there’s something wrong with our guys,” Rivers said of the ring ceremony. “I don’t think I have to use anything to fire our guys up. And we have to be fired up for 82 games, and not just one.”
Change in plans
The Celtics changed flight plans, departing Sunday night instead of Monday because of anticipated weather problems due to Hurricane Sandy.
“Four days ago, Phil Lynch, our crack security [head], and weatherman, too, he was tracking the storm and he got it right, I’ll give him credit for that,” Rivers said.
“We just want to get out. It’s a long flight to begin with, and we didn’t want to get stuck on a plane. And our guys aren’t complaining about going to Miami.”
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.