We are a day late on this story, but it keeps getting passed around the internet. So in case you missed it, Doc Rivers doesn’t want to face the Miami Heat in the playoffs. Fair enough.
From WEEI’s Green Street blog:
So, Rivers is actually admitting he wants avoid the Heat?
“Of course we would,” Rivers admitted when asked that very question. “But if we play them, we’ll be ready. But of course we would. Listen, I’m not that dumb. I’m not the brightest guy but come on. Really, you would love to avoid anyone [like Miami]. Listen, no matter who we play, we’re going to play a tough team. It’s going to be New York, Indiana or Miami. There’s no cakewalk for us. It’s going to be hard.”
On the one hand, Doc is quite right that if it were possible, the Celtics should avoid playing Miami given the whole “They have LeBron James who is currently the best basketball player in the world and it’s really not that close” thing. While some teams (New York, Indiana and Atlanta to a certain extent) present match-up problems because of size, Miami presents match-up problems because of their level of talent. And really, they present those problems to any team they face.
On the other hand, if getting to the Finals is honestly still on Boston’s radar, they aren’t going to be able to avoid Miami. The Knicks and the Pacers are both extremely good teams, but they won’t face the Heat before Boston, since both Indiana and New York are 5+ games up on Brooklyn, who is currently the 4th seed. Any trip to the Eastern Conference Finals (or beyond) is going to involve Miami, whether Doc likes it or not. The question is whether the Celtics want to potentially build up some momentum (with the opportunity to beat two very good teams) or face the Heat fresh (by tanking for the eighth seed and a first-round matchup).
Doc’s words and his actions seem to be at odds; he says he wants to avoid Miami, but he’s resting Pierce and Garnett extensively, which honestly makes the Celtics worse than teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers. But we wouldn’t expect him to tell reporters “Yeah, we are trying to lose these last few games to face a superior playoff opponent,” so that makes plenty of sense. It’s a double-edged sword for this team, since they have proven repeatedly this season that momentum DOES matter, and dropping games to teams like the Wolves and the Cavs is a bad way to build momentum. On the other hand, they’ve also proven that they are bad without their best players, and they’ll need everyone healthy to make any kind of progress in the playoffs.
Really, it will take a combination of the right circumstances and the best basketball we’ve seen all season for the Celtics to advance, and even then, there are no guarantees. We may wish Boston could avoid Miami, but the options really are face Miami or be eliminated early.
God save us all.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.