Assist isn’t needed
Further hyping this opener not required
WALTHAM — The phrase “playoff atmosphere’’ will be thrown around in the hours leading up to tonight’s Celtics’ season-opening epic against the Heat.
That could be a slight understatement.
With credentials confirmed for 250 media members (500 if one counts all the television crews), a Celtics spokesman said it will be “the equivalent of a Finals game, minus the international media.’’
The game has been sold out for two weeks, making it one of the toughest season-opening tickets in recent memory.
For all their efforts to downplay the game’s magnitude, coach Doc Rivers said he can see his players talking about it in the locker room and during video sessions. Ray Allen said he has a sense of the fans’ anticipation, and believes it’s different from the past couple of seasons.
“People in the last couple of weeks have been more overly excited,’’ Allen said.
“Last year, people said, ‘Good luck with the season.’ But this year it just seems like everybody knows what seat in the house they’re going to be sitting in when they watch us play. So there is a lot of excitement there.’’
The hype around the game led the Boston Media Consortium to move the gubernatorial debate up to last night to avoid competition.
“It is a neat game,’’ Rivers said. “It’ll be a lot of fun for everybody.’’
Still, it’s just one game. Not only that, it’s the first of a home-road back-to-back that takes the Celtics to Cleveland to face the other side of LeBron James’s “The Decision’’ tomorrow night.
Tonight’s game will be an epic, Rivers said, but only for 24 hours.
“One of the two teams will win, and whoever wins will be anointed the Eastern Conference champs for a day,’’ he said. “Then the next day we’ll play Cleveland, and it’ll go away.’’
“He may get lost with [the media], but he doesn’t get lost with us, I can tell you that,’’ said Rivers.
“It’s like Ray Allen,’’ Rivers said. “You’ve got Kevin Garnett. You’ve got Paul Pierce. They’re probably going to talk about them first. And he’s the third guy.’’
Having been relayed that comment, Allen paused, grinned, and then chuckled before answering diplomatically.
“I think over the last couple of years you’ve started to add that third guy who you can rely on,’’ he said. “That third guy, if you’ve got an All-Star player, then somebody’s got to take a role that’s going to allow those other two guys at least to shine. You definitely have to have understanding. You can’t just come in thinking it’s going to be your show.
“It’s an interesting dynamic, because a lot of teams have tried it over the years, and are guys willing to take back seats certain games, certain situations? We’ve answered that question and we continue to answer that question.’’
The Celtics were able to get away with letting Wade average 33.2 points a night in their playoff series last season because they were able to keep everybody else under control.
But with James and Bosh now in the picture, that’ll be tough for the Celtics.
“We’re a team defense,’’ Pierce said. “It’s hard to defend LeBron one-on-one. They run a lot of plays through him. They set a lot of picks for him. He’s so dangerous in transition. So it’s going to be important for five guys to always be aware of where he is.
“The bad thing about it is they have Dwyane Wade . . . so you know we just have to have our antennas up at all times, along with Chris Bosh, and be very aware where all these guys are on the court at all times.’’
Even though they haven’t seen much of Wade this preseason, Allen said they should be able to lean on last year.
“We’ll probably have to take a page from last year’s playbook with some of the plays that they ran,’’ he said.
“We knew some of Wade’s tendencies. We know, from their coach [Erik Spoelstra], how they coach.’’