According to Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, the current Pacers may be starting to look a lot more like the
1998 2008 Celtics team that won the title than the 2012 Celtics do. They are obviously much younger and even more obviously not that talented, but Rivers is referring to the style of play.
Doc Rivers said it before the game. He repeated it after the game. The Celtics’ coach looks at the Indiana Pacers and sees a younger version of the team he took to the NBA’s promised land.
“They’ve done a great job of adding pieces and adding them quickly,” Rivers said. “It’s amazing to me. It’s like watching a young version of us. I know. I hate to say it. But they’re young. They’re scary. And they’re good.”
That was before the Pacers went out and overwhelmed the Celtics 87-74, crushing them on the glass and pulling away down the stretch. You know, sort of what the Celtics have done every now and then to other teams over the past few years.
“They were us,” Rivers repeated afterward. “They knocked us off the block. They were the instigator the whole night, and all we did was whine and not retaliate.”
This following quote is a wonderful description of how that Boston title team dominated.
“They were in our air space,” Rivers said, using a favorite term to describe inside advantage. “We always talk about owning the air space. That’s who we are. And they were us — for the entire game. I just thought they did it better than us.”
Ask Pacers Coach Frank Vogel, and this isn’t by accident.
After being told of Rivers’ comments, [Vogel] cracked a smile and said, “Well, we’re trying to be them.”
He wasn’t just blowing smoke. Before every practice and film session, Vogel said, he writes the word “togetherness” on the board. It’s his version of ubuntu. And it’s all because of Rivers.
“One-hundred percent because of Doc,” he said. “I don’t know him very well, but the year they won the championship, I heard him use the word ‘togetherness’ about a million times. And what he did with that team was an inspiration to me, and I am trying my best to recreate that here [in Indiana].”
I don’t think anyone is actually going to mistake the two teams. There isn’t one player on this Pacers roster as good as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen or, probably, Rajon Rondo. But the style of play, at least in Doc’s eyes, is enough to make a comparison.