He knew there would be questions about the Bruins, who got up 3-0 on the Flyers in the Stanley Cup playoffs earlier this month, only to lose in seven. And the Red Sox, who fell behind the 2004 Yankees three games to none before rallying all the way to a World Series title.
In this town, this is the stuff of legend. It’s a blessing and a curse.
“The greatest part, and probably the toughest part, of playing sports or coaching sports in Boston is the history,” Rivers said Sunday. “Everyone’s going to remind you of the good history, and everyone’s going to remind you of the bad history.”
The Celtics’ coach knows where his team stands now, up three games to none on an Orlando Magic team that was hot as wildfire going into this series. He’s gotten the C’s to within one win of the NBA Finals, and he understands exactly what that entails. He doesn’t need the numbers to explain that to him.
He doesn’t need to know that the Celtics led this series 2-0, and they’re 32-0 historically when they lead a series 2-0.
He doesn’t need to know that they’re now up 3-0, and the franchise is 10-0 after leading 3-0.
He doesn’t need to know that historically, across the entire NBA, the team that leads 3-0 has won every single one of 93 playoff series all-time.
“It doesn’t matter,” Rivers said. “The history stuff, all that numbers stuff … we should go jump Elias Sports Bureau for throwing all that stuff out. Every time now that a series goes 2-0, or 2-1, or 3-1, you hear all these stats, and I guarantee you whoever that coach is, he’s cussing at the TV. Because there’s nothing you can do about that. I mean, it is what it is with the numbers, but you’ve still got to play the games.”
The past numbers don’t matter to Doc. It doesn’t matter that the Celtics haven’t swept a three-game playoff series since 1992, or a four-gamer since their championship run in 1986. All that matters is this Celtics team, here and now.
The players are dismissing history, too.
One reporter presented a historical stat to Paul Pierce, asking him what it meant to him, and the captain responded, “It means it’s another statistic you just threw out.” Another floated a Bruins comparison by Kevin Garnett, and KG flatly dismissed it, pointing out the obvious truth that basketball “is not hockey.”
The Celtics aren’t the Bruins, nor are they the ’04 Yankees, the 1975 Penguins or 1942 Red Wings. They’re a battle-tested, experience-laden team. They earned their first title together two years ago, and they’ve made a compelling case that another is one the way.
They’re not worried about the past, they’re not worried about other teams, and they’re certainly not worried about other sports besides basketball. This team is one win away from the NBA Finals, and its one and only focus is getting that win. All else is commentary, and no one in the Celtics’ locker room much cares.