“We can win Game 7,” he said prior to the C’s preseason tilt with the Knicks Saturday night at XL Center.
But, as the Celtics’ coach talked, he got more specific.
“We can rebound better. We were awful during the regular season. We turned the ball over during the regular season. And we didn’t win enough home games,” Rivers said. “I know we had the injuries, but we were losing the home games even when we were playing well last year. And in retrospect, it came back and we had a Game 7 on the road, so that’s how we can get better. I don’t know record-wise if we will be better or not, but I know we can be a better basketball team.”
Another difference Rivers will be looking for?
“Veteran teams have to be playing well all year, just like young teams,” he said. “I’ve said it before, what we did last year was unusual. It usually doesn’t work and in my opinion didn’t work. It got us to the Finals but didn’t us to what we wanted. We didn’t win it. That’s what we’re going to fight. Just because we have a lot of experience, we can’t use that as a crutch all year.”
Then came the final, much more specific, focal point that might allow the C’s to leave the season with a smile: Actually pounding the ball into the post instead of living on the perimeter.
“When you have injuries you tend to stay outside, and it hurt us. You look at some of the bigger games in the playoffs, we really didn’t have post presences at the time. That’s a difficult way to play basketball and win. We got away with it for the most part, but not all the way,” Rivers explained. “You’ll see more. Two years ago, we were an in and out basketball team. We had to basically abandon that in some ways.”
The coach continued: “We’re posting everybody. That’s what we told them the first day, is we have to get back to being an in and out team. We want to run, we want to get easy baskets, we want to look to the early post. Like yesterday, Kevin [Garnett ] had five of them where sprinted down the floor, beat everybody down the floor, got deep in the post, and last year he was the last guy down the floor. He was dragging his leg. We had to do what we had to do to win. It allows you to stop runs when you have a post game. Teams are on an 8-0 run, you can call a timeout and go right to the post, you usually get something out of that. When you don’t that you just better hope to make every shot.”
And then there is the secret weapon …
“Paul [Pierce ] loves the post, so does Kevin. [Rajon] Rondo  is the guy, for me, who is the new guy that we can actually use,” Rivers explained. “Rondo is better than you think down there. We were working on it a lot last year, we just never had the confidence to do it.
“What makes him effective is that you have to guard him down there. You can’t back off of him on the post. When he’s guarded, it not only spreads the floor, but it makes him a better passer.”
So, there you have it in a nutshell: The keys to unlocking the door that the Celtics couldn’t walk through a season ago.