MIAMI — Celtics coach Doc Rivers took his team to seven games with the favored Miami Heat, but the he couldn’t get his players over the hump and into the NBA Finals. The Celtics and Heat were tied at 73 entering the fourth quarter of Game 7 Saturday night.
“I was really proud of our guys, especially early on,” said Rivers. “You could just see they had the fight in them. They were going to play the right way. … Honestly, I just thought we had nothing left. That’s how it felt as a coach. I was trying to push every button we possibly had. Guys, everything was the front rim. We started throwing the ball away. They started beating us off the dribble.”
Miami outscored the Celtics by the final margin of 13 points in the fourth quarter, led by 20 points combined from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who were thought to be the best two players in this series coming into it, and who proved it in the end. The Celtics were the fourth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and they were thought to stand little chance when the playoffs began six weeks ago. But they won series with Atlanta and Philadelphia, and they took Miami to the brink of elimination.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a group like this,” said Rivers. “I had a group in Orlando that I am fond of, that I talk about, the heart and hustle group. They’re very similar to that group. They did everything I asked them to do. They came up short.
“I really wanted to win this game. Really, you know, nothing to do with me. I wanted this group somehow ‑‑ when you think about this group, no Jeff Green to start the season and no Chris Wilcox, no Avery Bradley, [Jermaine O’Neal]. If we could have got this group to The Finals, it would have been fantastic for us. That’s all I thought about today. Somehow let’s see if we can get this group in The Finals. They deserve it with their will. I hear people at times talk about the NBA as an individual league. I think that theory is gone. This is a team. We had a terrific team effort by everybody.”