MIAMI -- Despite losing Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox to heart surgery and Avery Bradley and Jermaine O'Neal to season-ending surgeries, coach Doc Rivers said that his core group of players always believed it would get to the Eastern Conference finals.
"We’ve had a lot of stuff thrown at us this year, starting with Jeff Green. Then Chris Wilcox, Avery [Bradley], we’ve had a lot of stuff," Rivers said. "Paul [Pierce] started the season not right. Kevin [Garnett], not right to start the season. It would have been easy for them to think that, especially at All-Star break. Nothing was going right for us. This was grind season in a lot of ways, but it’s been an enjoyable one."
There were no surprises in the starting lineups or the inactive lists for both teams in the conference finals' opener Monday night. Chris Bosh remains out and the Heat are starting Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Shane Battier and Ronny Turiaf. The Celtics will counter with their usual starting five -- Bradley and JaJuan Johnson are inactive.
Rivers said that the Celtics must post up Brandon Bass some to try to take advantage of Battier if he defends him, but the coach doesn't want to make Bass uncomfortable.
"That’s not really what he is, and so we’re not going to turn him into something he’s not," Rivers said. "We’re just going to keep him in his comfort zone, especially on the road for him."
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