The last time Celtics fans saw their team on the TD Garden floor, they sent the C's to Miami with a "Let's go Celtics" chant during the waning minutes of an Eastern Conference finals Game 6 blowout loss to the Heat this past June. On Sunday, the C's welcomed fans back to the Garden for the team's annual open practice, and this time Celtics coach Doc Rivers began the chant.
"Beat the Heat," Rivers chanted. "All year long, beat the Heat."
His team will get its first chance at accomplishing that feat on Tuesday night, when they kick off the NBA season in Miami. Hoping to avoid Hurricane Sandy, the Celtics planned to fly a day early, so the wait for tipoff may seem even more like an eternity, especially since the Heat receive their NBA championship rings prior to the game.
"We played extremely well the night we got our ring," said Rivers. "We beat Cleveland in front of LeBron, so I think this is LeBron's payback that he gets his ring in front of us. It's amazing how things turn around. But, on the other side, to us it's just waiting longer to play. That's all it is."
While Rivers claimed he hasn't thought about how the C's will approach the ring ceremony, his players said they won't be watching.
"We can care less," said Jeff Green. "They get their ring. We're going in to play a game. We're not going to sit there and watch. So, they celebrate; we go play."
"I won't [be watching]. I'll be saying a prayer in the back," said Rajon Rondo, a smile washing over his face.
"We're really bitter with the way the season ended last year," added Paul Pierce, "so we're excited to get back out there and get back to competition. ... We still remember Game 7 down in Miami and Game 6 here. We had two opportunities to advance to the NBA finals, so that's still in the back of our minds. We're going to go down there and really try to make a statement."
Even Jason Terry, who watched the Celtics-Heat series from Dallas last season, knows the feeling. His Mavericks lost to Miami in the 2006 NBA finals before exacting their title revenge against the Heat in 2010.
"I should be a two-time champion right now, but it wasn't so," said Terry. "I'll never forget that feeling, walking off that court in Game 6 in Dallas, when the confetti dropped on our head. I like to remember winning the championship, but what sticks in my mind more than anything is when we lost. I've got to believe it's a similar feeling to what Boston felt last year in Game 7, so I come right into the rivalry, I'm yearning for it and that's game No. 1."
For more on the Celtics, visit weei.com/celtics.
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